LIBRARY OF THE COMMANDERY OF
the: state ofmassachusetts military
order of the loyal legion of the
cadet armory, boston
THE UNIVERSITY OF
THE WILMER COLLECTION
OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS
RICHARD H. WILMER, JR.
*• TO THE
U TERARV EO/T0 ^^
Pnt***,'" *" ******** .,.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"' ' ^~ ':
'you sit down, and I'll bkad."— See Page i<>.
EDWARD A. ROBINSON
GEORGE A. WALL,
Authors of "The Disk" etc.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY JAMES FAG AN.
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
BY ROBERT BONNER'S SONS
(All rights reserved.)
I SEE the cloud of battle and the flame.
I hear the cannon roar, the crackling note
Of rifles and the clash of angry steel.
My pulses quicken and my brain is wild
With frenzied shouts and yells of men in strife.
There father, son and brother fearless stand
For all men hold most dear.
There, right and left, brave men are stricken down
Beneath the banner that they love so well !
And all the while, pulsating with the shriek
And hiss of shot and shell, with cries and groans
Of wounded, dying men, the sulph'rous air
Speaks to each sense, as if in thunder tones:
The price of peace is blood.
PART L— PROLOGUE.
AR ! Ledger ! Midnight edition ! Fort
Sumter fired on !" was the cry which, at
two o'clock on the morning of the 13th
of April, 1 86 1, aroused the slumbering village in which
I lived. It was a cry which stimulated and thrilled
every fiber of my being, as I ran, splashing through
mud, darkness and rain, toward the Waytown Arms,
our village inn.
I had recognized the hoarse, familiar voice shouting
this stirring news as belonging to old Joe, the paper-
carrier, and though I was but a boy, I knew the storm
that had been threatening the safety of the Union had
burst upon us.
Joe was standing on the seat of a light wagon in the
open roadway before the tavern. His vehicle was
drawn by two small mules, whose sweating bodies
threw up clouds of steam, which the lantern in the
[ 7 ]
8 THE GUN-BEARER.
hands of the innkeeper scarcely penetrated, and in
which old Joe's form towered black and gigantic.
A surging crowd of hurriedly dressed men had al-
ready gathered around the wagon, and I could see the
gleam of papers as they were passed from hand to
Drawing near, I saw there was another person in
the wagon who was distributing the papers — old Joe,
maintaining his lofty position above the heads of the
encircling crowd, and, whip in hand, as if impatient to
be off, had but the one care on his mind, to rouse the
heaviest sleeper in the village with this dreaded news.
A moment before silence had reigned in the unsus-
pecting security of our village, and I, too thoughtful
for sleep, by reason of the excited talk which we boys,
imitating our elders, had been indulging in at our sur-
reptitious meeting that evening, was standing by the
window of my room up under the roof, looking out
into the darkness and listening abstractedly to the drip,
drip of the rain from the eaves. Not a light was to
be seen anywhere ; utter gloom and, save the noise of
the rain, silence everywhere.
After a while I fancied that the echo of another
sound mingled with the patter of the water. It was
like the blast of a horn. I opened the window, that I
might hear better, and, listening with suspended breath,
heard the sound again, this time more plainly.
Toot ! Toot !
It was a horn, surely, but still far away.
Later I could hear the muffled rumble of wheels and
the thump of hoofs in the covered bridge at the north
end of the village and, when that ceased, the rattle of
wheels over stony ground and the sound of a hoarse
voice shouting something.
Others were waking in the village ; lights gleamed
THE GUN-REARER. 9
from many windows, and the heads of many people
appeared, some with night-caps and some without.
Meanwhile the noise of hoof-beats and the sound of
wagon-wheels grew louder, the shouting more distinct,
and, when the team turned the corner, came full and
strong the cry of "War."
I made a short cut to the ground by way of my win-
dow, the porch underneath, and a drop from the edge
of that to the soft lawn below, and in a very short
space of time was, as you see me at the beginning of
this story, splashing through the darkness and mud on
my way to the inn, where I had rightly concluded Joe
would rein up.
By the time I arrived, however, the demand for
papers had been satisfied, and old Joe, anxious that no
one should get ahead of him in the village beyond
" Ready, boys ! G'lang !"
Then letting the whip fall on the steaming mules,
and with a final cry "War !" he went rattling and splash-
ing away into the darkness.
As Joe drove off, the crowd which he had called to-
gether began to diminish, some going one way and
some another, all anxious to know the particulars.
Many of the villagers went into the tavern, whither
I followed, but on presenting myself at the door of the
bar-room, where they seemed to have assembled, ad-
mittance was refused me.
" The room is already too full," they said.
On trying the office, I found gathered there several
of the boys whom I had left only a little while before.
They were all in one group at the end of the room,
watching with a mixture of diffidence and curiosity a
strange man who was reading one of Joe's papers by
the light of the desk-lamp.
10 THE GUN-BEARER.
Curiosity at last getting the best of every other feel-
ing, little Tommy Atkins ventured to break the silence
and ask the stranger the meaning of all the excitement.
" It means war, I suppose, boys," he said, in a kindly
voice, looking toward us ; then, probably surmising
that we were anxious to know all about it, he added :
" but would you like to hear what the paper says ?"
" Yes !" we cried, in chorus.
"Very well ; you sit down, and I'll read."
We scattered to seats, and the stranger, springing to
a place on the desk, by which he had been standing,
drew the lamp toward him, and holding the paper side-
wise, so that the light would fall strong on the print,
" 'Special Dispatch to the Ledger.
" ' Charleston, S. C, April 12, 1861. — The rebels opened fire
upon Fort Sumter at 4:30 this morning. The first shot was
fired from Fort Moultrie. The iron-clad floating battery and
the heavy batteries on Mt. Pleasant and Cummings Point im-
mediately followed suit. The encircling guns poured such a
storm of shot and shell upon the loyal fort that only the cannon
in the casemates could be used,' " etc., etc.
But everybody has read these first dispatches, and
been as excited over them as we were. Our youthful
spirits under the weird spell of the early morning
hour could not be held entirely in check, even by the
magnetic charm of the stranger's voice and manner or
the strange news that he was reading, and broke
through all restraint at times. We were enthusiastic
partisans of the northern cause, and understood, in a
youthful way, the nature of the crisis. Yet I am sure
none of us really grasped the whole significance of this
news. The novelty wore away somewhat, I confess for
myself, as the stranger went on reading, and my atten-
tion wandered occasionally to outside matters.
I heard a wagon rattle up to the door, saw the post-
THE GUN-BEARER. 11
master come into the office, take his hat and coat from
a peg, and go out again. He was evidently thinking
deeply about something, for he took no notice of the
stranger, who kept on reading, nor of us boys sitting
around in silence. In a little while I heard the wagon
Again, the stranger had not long been reading be-
fore Joe Bentley, the blacksmith's son, who was sitting
astride a chair, with his elbows resting on the back,
began fumbling about in his pockets. Bringing forth,
at last, a short clay pipe, from which he carefully
shook the ashes, he crowded down what tobacco there
was in it, fished out a live coal from among the ashes
in the big fireplace, and proceeded to light it in an ab-
stracted sort of way. Then placing the pipe in one
corner of his mouth, where neither it nor the smoke
could interfere with his vision, he fixed his eyes un-
waveringly on the stranger.
Joe was the biggest and oldest one among us, and
we always looked up to him a little on that account ;
but now he seemed more than ever sedate and trust-
War and the horrors prophesied by the paper
might seem unreal and overdrawn to the rest of us,
but Joe must realize them, I thought, as I watched him
sitting there so stately and thoughtful with the stump
of a pipe between his teeth.
Tommy Atkins also seemed to realize something of
the terrible news. He, too, seemed absorbed by it, and
sat on the end of the newspaper-table, swinging his
feet and twisting and untwisting his cap, from which
he had long ago wrung out every drop of moisture, ut-
terly unconscious of everything about him except the
words of the stranger.
During this time it was evident, from noises which
12 THE GUN-REARER.
came to us from the bar-room, that the older people
there assembled were not without their excitement.
First we would hear an indistinct roar, as if all were
talking at once. Then came a more decided shout,
with stamping of feet and thumping of chair-legs.
After this a short silence, and then the indistinct tones
of a single voice murmuring on, sometimes undisturbed,
sometimes interrupted by applause, and in one or two
cases completely overcome by noises of an opposite
character, not quick and soon over, like applause, but
slowly growing from a mere murmur persistently
louder and louder until the one voice was swallowed
up and lost.
This effort to drown the speaker's voice occurred but
twice. At the end of the second time I heard a scuf-
fling of feet, a crash as of breaking furniture, followed
by a loud, angry voice, shouting : " You lie ! Take
that !" A pistol-shot added to the confusion, and as I
heard some one cry out : " Murder !" the stranger
jumped to the floor and darted through the doorway
leading to the bar-room.
Curiosity overcoming my judgment, I followed just
far enough to see the cause of this disturbance, and
there, close by the door, struggling in the grasp of two
of the worst roughs that ever disgraced the quiet of a
mill-village, was old white-haired Deacon Miller, his
face streaked with blood, his coat torn to shreds, his
hat off and a crowd of dazed and seemingly helpless
men watching this unnatural combat, yet making no
effort to offer the help that was needed.
Pressing through the crowd, the stranger jumped
like a tiger at the bully nearest him, and, with a well-
directed blow, knocked him senseless. Before the other
villain could appreciate the situation, he, too, received
a well-merited punishment, and the deacon, faint with
THE GUN- BEARER. 13
exhaustion, would have fallen to the floor had not the
stranger caught him in his arms.
A murmur of approval went up from the crowd, and
Billy Green, of the variety store, shouted :
" Kick the rascals into the road ! Hang 'em to the
"Silence !" thundered the stranger, in a commanding
tone. "Can't you act like men? Landlord, get out
your carriage and help me take the deacon to his
house. And you, sir," addressing Billy Green, "get me
a basin of water and a sponge."
It was soon discovered that the Deacon had received
only a slight flesh wound, and that, aside from the
damage sustained by his clothing and the exhaustion
resulting from rough handling, there was no serious
After the carriage with the deacon, the stranger and
the landlord had rolled away, the two miscreants, who
by this time had gained their feet, muttered threats of
dire vengeance upon the deacon.
" You'd better let him alone," said Joe Bentley, who
was standing behind me. " If he can't take care of
himself, he's got a friend who can take of him."
The roughs looked at Joe angrily an instant, then
turned and left the tavern.
" They 're a bad lot," said Dick Wentworth, the sta-
tion-agent, as the door closed after them — " a bad lot
and they ought to be watched. They're mean enough
to do anything."
" Who are they, anyhow ?" asked Billy Green, rather
out of contempt than for information.
" Jail-birds — a couple of jail-birds of the worst sort,
just two weeks out of jails, where they've been board-
ing for the past three years for setting fire to the dea-
14 THE GUN-BEARER.
" They '11 get another three years if they don't make
themselves scarce 'round these parts," said Billy.
" Like enough — like enough," answered Wentworth,
meditatively ; " but they'll be up to some deviltry before
they go. You see if they don't."
An hour was spent discussing the war-news, during
which the situation was viewed from every stand-
The village orator, Bert Smith, who, by the way, hap-
pened to be town-crier, had a good deal to say about
the Stars and Stripes, the scream of the eagle for
liberty, and rounded out his speech with the solemnity
of a prophet.
" I see," he said, " this beautiful land of ours deluged
with blood ; our sons slaughtered on our own hearth-
stones ; ruin, wretchedness, tears, despair and death,
Just as he had finished the landlord returned, and,
rushing into the room, shouted excitedly :
"The rascals! What's become of them? Where
are those brutes that struck the deacon ?"
" Gone !" answered Billy Green. " They left just after
you drove away."
" Boys," replied the landlord, " there 's going to be
trouble to-night, sure ; and those villains are going to
" What's the matter now?" asked Billy.
" Matter enough. The stranger and I took the dea-
con home, and were coming back through the woods.
When we 'd got as far as Paddock's, I saw two men
sneak in behind the big stone at the bound'ry line and
crawl off into the darkness. The stranger also saw
them, and said : ' Landlord, you 'd better turn and drive
me back to Miller's house. Those imps mean mischief,
and the old man may need help. I'll stop with him
THE GUN-BEARER. 15
to-night ?' So I drove back, left him, and he's there
"What's that?" said Billy, from the west window.
" Moon !" replied the landlord, going hastily to the
window. " Moon don't rise in the west. My God,
boys ! They 're at it ; they 've fired either the mill or the
deacon's house. Come on ; help me out with the big
wagon ; and you, Billy, run for the sexton, get the key
to the church, and ring the bell, quickly ! Away with
with you!" noticing a little hesitation.
Willing hands helped the landlord get out the big
wagon, to which were harnessed a fresh pair of horses,
and into which sprang half a dozen men, eager to ren-
der whatever assistance might be needed to save the
mill, upon which so many of the townspeople depended
for their daily bread.
Just as the horses were put to a gallop toward the
fire, the old church-bell rang out an alarm, which
aroused every able-bodied man in the village.
While I stood in the doorway, watching the teams
disappear in the rain and haze which were reddened
by the light of the distant fire, and was debating with
myself whether or not I should run after the other
boys, I distinctly heard the thump of a crutch on the
floor behind me. There could be no mistake about
this, and I at once became conscious that my father
was near me, as he was the only man in the village
who used a crutch.
I was proud that I could show my father that his
own interest in affairs of state, as well as of local im-
portance, were finding a ready second in the ' person of
his son ; but I was also aware of a little inward trem-
bling for all that.
My father was one of those men who could never be
depended upon beforehand to look at anything in any-
particular way. Of a very nervous temperament, and
made irascible by chronic ailing- and loss of property,
his views, I often thought, were colored by his feelings ;
and as I was an only child, and babied, as the boys say,
it occurred to me that he might think this a fitting op-
portunity to reduce me to my proper place, as a person
of no importance, and, more's the pity, I was right, for
hardly had he caught sight of me when he cried :
" You here ? This is no place for a boy on such a
night as this. Go home !"
Why didn't I run before I was discovered ! To say I
was vexed would be putting it too mildly. It seemed to
me that I was old enough to be allowed some rights,
and had about determined to resist parental authority
when my father took me by the shoulder, and pushing
me, said :
" March !"
I went, and felt then as I have felt since, my body
move forward, though my spirit rebelled and bade me
When I again came out of the house, although the
morning sun was high in the heavens, I noticed that
the village was unusually quiet. Everybody seemed
to be asleep ; but, without pausing to wonder at the
unwonted stillness that reigned all around, I went to
the barn and began work on the horses, finishing with
my mare ; for I liked to spend all extra time on her.
In the next house to ours lived Mrs. Atkins, Tommy's
mother. Mr. Atkins had died in debt, father said.
Consequently, Tommy's mother was compelled to de-
pend upon her own exertions for a living, and called
upon Tommy to add to the family treasury all he could
earn by driving the grocer's wagon, and doing any other
light jobs that came in his way.
Out on all occasions and in all kinds of weather, Tom-
my improved a happy faculty for picking up little bits of
news, to which his ingenuity and imagination added
many interesting details, and therefore, though the
youngest boy among us, he was generally the best in-
formed as to whatever was of current interest.
But he was a little too conscious of this superiority,
we sometimes thought. We did not like to have to
listen to him always.
Tommy's bedroom window was just opposite the
doorway of our barn, and the noise I made over the
18 THE GUN-BEARER.
horses, and the low whistle I kept up to drive the dust
from my mouth must have aroused him, as he appeared
suddenly at the stable-door.
" Hello, Tommy," I cried, on seeing him.
" Hello yerself. I say, Dan, 'twas too bad yer had to
go home. Yer missed all the fun."
" Did you see it all ?"
"Did I see it? Wa'n't I out all night?" Tom, in-
deed, did look as though he had been out, as he said :
" Gosh ! wa'n't it lively, though ?"
" Well, what was it burnt ?" I asked.
But Tommy was not going to tell the whole secret
or any part of it in a hurry, so he passed over my ques-
tion as though he had not heard it.
"D'yer s'pose I 'd gone home, 'nd left a big red sky
like that? Not much! It beat all the Fourth-of-July
fireworks you ever saw, all holler."
I was breathless with impatience to hear about it,
but saw Tommy had made up his mind to tantalize
me, and at the same time show me how much more
independent he was than I. It would not do to allow
that ; besides, I knew that if let alone he would give me
the whole story in time. I said nothing, therefore, but
applied myself more closely to my work. I was rub-
bing down the mare's hind legs at the time. This gave
me a chance, as I bent over, to watch Tommy under
my arm, and by saying "Whoa!" now and then I
seemed to acquire independence and carelessness, as
Tommy at first seemed disturbed, because I did not
show more enthusiasm, and I became almost afraid
that he was going to disappoint me, and go away with-
out giving me the news ; but the desire to air some of
his knowledge conquered all other inclinations, and,
taking up a position on the mealchest, he began :
THE GUN-BEARER. 19
" Yer know the stranger who read to us. Yer remer-
ber him, don't yer?"
Of course I remembered him. Was not his face, with
its black hair and glittering black eyes, the clearest
thing in my mind of all last night's excitement ? But
I simply said :
"Well, he's a brick." Tommy shut his teeth,
winked his eyes, and shook his head convincingly.
" You know, of course, 'bout his killing the rough ?"
I was startled from my forced calm, and straighten-
ing up stared over the mare's back at Tommy sitting
on the chest. Tommy saw his advantage and sneered.
" Don't even know that, hey?" I went back to work
in a hurry. "Yer a pretty feller to be 'round when
there 's anything goin' on."
" Whoa ! Stand still, can't you ?" said I to the mare.
" Well, " said Tommy, with a gleam of satisfaction in
his eyes, " when we left the tavern the landlord whipped
up his horses, and away we went in fine shape, I tell
" But you weren't in the wagon, were you ?" I asked,
remembering distinctly that when the wagon started
Tommy and the other boys were afoot.
" No ; but they hadn 't reached the corner before I
was with them."
" I suppose they needed you," said I, determined to
get a fling at Tommy.
" Of course," answered Tommy indifferently, as if
that were a matter about which there ought to be but
one opinion, and that further remarks on that subject
were unnecessary. " But don't bother me, Dan, if you
want to hear what happened."
'• Go on, then !" I muttered.
" Well, 's I was sayin', we went off in fine shape. We
20 THE GUN-BEARER.
picked up some of the mill overseers on the way, and
by the time we got clear of the town we had a dozen
men in the wagon. My, but it was dark and drizzly
when we got into the woods ! Just after we got through
them, and came out at the top of the hill, we could see
the blaze over the tops of the trees that stood between
us and the mill. One of the overseers said : ' It 's the
mill, boys, sure enough !' "
" ' The rascals !' said the landlord, sharp and angry
like. ' Keep a sharp eye along the roadside, boys, for
two of the meanest skunks that ever went unhung.
Don't let 'em get away. It '11 be some satisfaction in
running those fellows in.' "
" ' Better hang 'em,' said Billy, 'and run 'em in after-
" A little turn in the road as you reach the mansur
house brought us into a full view of the fire, which
proved to be " — here Tommy began to mount his high
horse again — " but what are you looking at me in that
way for, with your mouth wide open, and your eyes
fairly sticking out of your head ?"
"Stand still there," I cried to the mare. I had to say
something to cover my excitement.
Tommy waited an instant, just to bother me, and then
" Well, it was the—"
" Whoa ! Be quiet !" I shouted to the mare, as
Tommy again paused, with a smile at my eagerness to
catch every word.
" The barn. The mill was all right, but the deacon's
house was in danger. The barn is close to the house,
yer know, and well filled with hay. It made a mighty
hot fire. We could hear it roar as the big waves of
flame, all edged with a fringe of sparks and smoke, rose
high into the air."
THE GUN-BEARER. 21
I had now stopped work and was standing, curry-
comb and brush in hand, staring at Tommy. Tommy,
warming to the subject, for the moment forgot his
superiority, and, not noticing my attitude, continued
" When we turned into the mill road we heard a
couple of explosions. Some of the men said 't was
powder in the barn ; others said 't was more like the
crack of a rifle. When we reached the house we saw
the stranger, the deacon and a couple of his men
throwin' water on blankets hung on the side of the
house nearest the barn. Edith and the servant girl
were there, helpin' carry water from the well to the
" Our comin' was a lucky job for them, for they were
all tuckered out. In a few minutes the old hand-engine
arrived, the suction-pipe was lowered into the well, the
breaks were manned, and when the leadin' hosemen got
a stream on the fire they began to get the best of it.
" By George," said Tommy, as the whole scene
seemed to come into his mind, " what a sight that was
and how we all shouted when the flames died down and
we knew the house was saved !
" After the fire was all out the deacon opened a barrel
of cider and everybody drank his fill."
" Did they get the horses out ?"
" Yes, got 'em all out. Ah, I thought there was some-
thin' else. The explosions we heard " — here Tommy
looked at me, as if meditating another triumph.
But I was ready for him, and had resumed work on
" The explosions were caused by the stranger's firin'
at the two roughs who attacked the deacon at the
" Did he hit them ?"
22 THE GUN-BEARER.
"You bet he did," replied Tommy. " He killed one
of 'em stone dead, and he hurt the other so he couldn't
get away, and we brought him back with us."
" What were they trying to do ?"
" Set fire to the house, of course. They 'd piled a lot
of straw against the rear of the house, and with a card
of lighted matches were goin' to set fire to it when the
stranger, who 'd been watchin' 'em and was all ready,
up and fired. The ball passed right through the neck
of one feller and broke his spine, so he died at once.
The other one was hit in the leg and fell, so they cap-
tured him. He 's an ugly feller, that rough ; but they '11
fix him now."
Just here Mrs. Atkins called : " Tommy !" Tommy
heard her and said :
"But perhaps you haven't been interested in what
I 've been tellin*. Look at yourself."
I did not look at myself, and I did not want Tommy
to go away without telling me the rest, for I was inter-
ested to know if there was anything more, so I said :
" Anything else happen ?"
" Can't stop any longer. There 's mother callin' and
I 'm late to work as 't is."
Tommy sprang down from the chest and started
home on the run ; but as he was passing out of the door
an idea seized him and, catching hold of the door-post
with one hand, he swung the upper part of his body into
" Say ! Come round to the store this afternoon, and
if I 'm there I '11 tell you the rest."
He winked one eye at me and grinned. I let the
currycomb fly at him, but he dodged it easily, disap-
peared, and in a moment I heard his feet strike the
ground on his side of the fence.
" Daniel, come to breakfast !"
It was my mother calling from the kitchen door.
As I entered the house, mother, who was taking break-
fast from the stove, turned to say :
" Don't make any noise, Daniel. Father didn't sleep
much last night, and he 's abed now."
" Is he sick ?" I asked, knowing the contrary, but hop-
ing she would tell me what I had failed to learn from
" No ; but news was brought last night that Fort
Sumter had been fired upon. Deacon Miller's barn was
also burned. There were great doings in the village
"I know that," I said, taking a seat at the table;
" but what about the stranger and the man he killed ?"
Mother was just stooping over the stove with a towel
in her hand to open the oven door for the potatoes, but
hearing my question, she straightened up and looked at
me with astonishment.
" Why, Daniel, this all happened in the night."
She did not know that I had been out at all — a bit of
evidence that father must have been thinking of some-
thing else when he came in or he would have told her.
" Who told you about it ?"
24 THE GUN-BEARER.
"Tommy Atkins," I replied. "He came over this
morning when I was cleaning the horses, and told me
all about it ; besides, I was in the village part of the
" You were ? I did not hear you come in," she said,
and bent over the stove again. Breakfast was soon
upon the table, and by the time we began to eat, a door
opened and father appeared.
I expected to be scolded, and watched him from the
corners of my eyes. He looked tired and cross, and
the moment he noticed me he was evidently reminded
of where he had found me last night. " Look here,
young man," he said, harshly, " it is time for you to be
in bed at two o'clock in the morning."
" But, father " — I objected.
" No ' but ' about it, sir. I don't, and what's more, I
won't have any more of these goings-on."
" He did not think you wouldn't like it," interposed
" Didn't think — he 'd no business to think. Why, I
found him at the tavern wet through, just as the tavern
keeper with his big wagon and half a dozen men were
starting for the fire. A minute more and he 'd been off
with them, as big as you please. Look here, young
man " — father always began with this phrase when he
wanted to reprove me — " you 've got to grow before
you '11 be of much account."
" Dan'l wanted to see what was going on, I suppose.
You must remember, father, we were all children
" That is all very true, but no excuse," and while he
was saying this, he leaned his crutch against the wall
and slowly lowered himself into his chair at the table.
Hardly had he turned around and faced us, before the
crutch fell with a crash to the floor,
THE GUN-BEARER. 25
He jumped in his chair as though a pistol had been
fired, and turning, looked at the fallen crutch as if it
had been a dog ready to bite him. This seemed so
funny that I would have laughed, vexed as I was, if a
scared, troubled look on mother's face had not stopped
me ; the look made me realize that father's nerves were
all unstrung with disease and trouble and sleeplessness,
and that he was not himself.
But the unfavorable view he had taken of my pres-
ence in the tavern the night before and the way he had
talked to me about it had driven all desire for news
out of my mind, and turning my attention to the break-
fast, I discovered I was quite hungry.
Not so with my father ; nothing seemed to please him.
The beef was too tough, the coffee too hot, or the
potatoes too soggy. " Why can't we have as good beef
here as in the city ?" was a standing question with
He was never satisfied with the meat to be had, and
every time he returned from his periodical trip to the
city he had a great deal to say about it. Mother always
bore all this complaining patiently. It must have hurt
her feelings, yet she did not seem to mind it much, or
else I did not see it. Her face in these years had
always a careworn expression, and her eyes the same
watchful look that was in them when I was recovering
from the scarlet fever.
Father finally pushed away his plate, remarking, as
he did so : " Oh, I don't want anything. I 'm not
hungry." Yet he had eaten half of what he had helped
" I hope Deacon Miller feels well this morning ," he
said, after a pause.
" Why, he was not hurt much last night, was he ?"
asked mother, a little anxiously.
26 THE GUN-BEARER.
I began to be interested again, but knew enough to
keep quiet and let them talk, undisturbed.
" Hurt, no ; but he 's lost a pretty figure by the fire ;
and to a man who loves money as he does, it 's enough
to make him sick. It's lucky for him the stranger
happened around as he did ; he'd have lost his house,
and the mill, too, for aught I know. Well, he's got
money enough — he can stand it."
" Yes, father ; but think of the people depending
upon that mill for their bread and butter."
" Of course, I 'd be sorry for the mill people," said
father ; " but I haven't any sympathy for the deacon.
He has none for me. He'll foreclose on this property
the first chance he gets, and there 's no need of his
being so grasping. His clerk told us yesterday that
he 'd more orders on hand than he could fill for a
Father waited for mother to speak, but she only
looked worried, and said :
" I am sorry for Mrs. Miller."
" Sorry for Mrs. Miller ? Yes ; I suppose you are.
That 's just like a woman. Do you suppose she 'd be
sorry for you if the deacon foreclosed to-day ?"
" Yes, I do," said mother, bravely.
" Oh, you do ? Well, I don't. There 's no difference
in them. They 're all in the same boat — deacon, wife,
Edith and all — grasping, grasping, getting all they can
out of everybody."
"You ought not to be so hard on the deacon," said
mother. " He loaned you money when you needed it,
and it 's not his fault that you have been sick and that
things have gone wrong with you. Don't fret, father ;
things will come out all right when you get well. What
started the row at the tavern ?"
" Why, the deacon was talking about the war — what
THE GUN-BEARER. 27
secession meant, how the price of everything would go
up, and how long it would be before manufacturers
could pay any more for help than they were paying
now. That was about all he had to say when one of
the roughs jumped up and, running to the deacon,
shaking his fist in his face, said :
" ' I know you, Deacon Miller ! Yer a slick, palaverin',
lazy aristercrat, too lazy to do anything yerself, an' too
mean an' stingy to want an honest laborin' man paid
full wages for an honest day's work. Yer always rob-
bin' somebody an' tellin' 'em yer a frien', an' I tell yer
yer lie !'
" Just then he pulled a pistol from his pocket and
pointed it at the deacon. Wentworth, who was stand-
ing close by at the time, knocked the pistol up just as
the fellow fired. Another rough — companion to the
fellow who fired the pistol — jumped for Wentworth,
and in a minute there was some pretty tall fighting.
It didn't last long, for no sooner had some one
shouted : ' Murder!' than the stranger rushed in like
a mad bull and put an end to it all. The tavern-keeper
told me after he came back from the fire this morning
that the stranger killed one of these two men just as
they were firing the deacon's house, and that he shot
the other, wounding him so he was captured, and he 's
now in the calaboose. But that don't matter much.
Those fellows deserved putting out of the way, both of
them. The thing we now have to face is war — a war
that has come to stay until the cause has been washed
out by blood. Civil war," said my father, dropping his
voice to a meditative tone. " Civil war ; grim-visaged,
fratricidal, terrible. But," turning suddenly to me,
" aren't you going to do any work this morning ?"
" The chores are done, the horses cleaned and the
stable put to rights," said mother, interfering.
28 THE GUN-HEARER.
" It 's a wonder," said father, disappointedly.
" You are not going to the mill to- day, are you,
father ?" asked mother. " I wouldn't."
" I don't believe I will. But that grain must go up
the river to-day. That must be done. Here, Daniel,
you take the double team and carry it yourself. Be
sure that Granger gives you a receipt for the right
weight. There's more than I usually carry in. Tell
him there '11 be less next week."
" All right," I said, and left the room ; but he could
not let me go without a parting shot, and shouted
after me :
" Look here, young man, I don't want any mistake
about this. It must go to-day."
I hurried off. I could see before me a pleasant drive,
and a chance to hear what the people thought of the
It had come. That crisis which the wise had fore-
told, and which the thoughtful, earnest few looked for-
ward to as a means to the end they desired ; that reality
which the great body of conservative, well-fed, unsus-
pecting populace had pooh-poohed at, and refused to
believed in, had come at last. War, with all its hor-
rors, was at the door.
The little fleecy cloud that had crept up above the
nation's horizon, unperceived by any one but the most
weather-wise, had suddenly taken on enormous pro-
portions, and become terribly visible to all. Broad,
black and ominous, it covered the whole heavens, preg-
nant with rain and hail, hiding, in its shadow, de-
I, as a boy, lying at ease upon a wagon-load of grain,
as my two horses plodded slowly along the river bank
that pleasant spring morning, felt something of the
excitement in my blood, looked at the approaching
tempest with steady, curious eyes, and waited some-
what impatientty, not knowing the frightful power be-
hind it, for the first tangible signs that it was a re-
ality ; a fearful fact and no empty though exciting
Three years have passed since first the country
responded to the call to arms ; three years since first
was raised the cry of " On to Richmond ;" since the
setting in of that tide of war, which has ebbed and
flowed along the coast and rivers of the South and
among her mountains, on the plains and valleys of the
Mississippi, of Tennessee and of Virginia ; which has
broken over Maryland into Pennsylvania and rolled
along northward until it threatened to submerge
Washington and Baltimore ; three years of fatiguing
toilsome march ; of camp, of bivouac and of battle.
Hundred of thousands of brave men have bared their
breasts as a bulwark for the cause they loved. Tens of
thousands have been swept resistlessly onward to die
upon the field of battle, to languish in some gloomy,
far-off hospital or pestilential prison pen. Again and
again have the voice and bloody arms of war been
raised for men, more men.
The lines are more contracted, but the battle cloud
that has hung so long in the southern horizon has not
yet lifted ; the smoke and gleam from a country
ravaged and burning has not yet faded away ; there is
no near prospect of peace from the shock of battle.
THE GUN-BEARER. 31
The North is determined, strong ; the South is de-
Three years next month old Joe refused Way town
with the cry of "War." Since then how changed the
village grew. So changed and strange I did not care
to stay there.
Seventy-five thousand men were called for, and my
comrades, all who could, enlisted. Almost everybody
said : " Pshaw ! the war will soon be over ;" but when we
received the report of the attack upon the Sixth Massa-
chusetts regiment in Baltimore, and soon afterward
news of the fight at Bull Run, our people began to
realize that war was really at the door, and that, per-
haps, it would be long and bloody.
In a few days a pine box, large enough to hold a man,
came in on the train.
The whole village knew it almost instantly.
" Who is it ?" somebody whispers.
" Mike Clancy, one of the volunteers from Miller's
Then a half dozen Irishmen called for the pine box
and carried it away to the north end of the town.
The next day a funeral, with many over-crowded
wagons and raw-boned, knock-kneed horses crawled
slowly down Main street out of the village to the
Catholic graveyard on the hill.
No one thought of the shabby, strung-out pomp. It
was a soldier's funeral, the first offering of our village
on the country's altar.
A cheap cotton, star-spangled banner gleamed through
the glass sides of the hearse.
Children, barefooted and bareheaded, stood by the
gateways or climbed the road-side fence to watch with
wide-open, calm but wondering eyes the sad procession.
The busy housewife forgot for a moment her morning
32 THE GUN-BEARER.
cares and from her windows watched it crawling by.
She saw it climb the hill, pass through the graveyard
gate, and turned away with apron to her eyes. Farmers
suspended work, and with rake or hoe in hand watched
it in silence out of sight.
Months passed, and the people grew silent, anxious
and impatient. Newspapers were eagerly scanned and
passed from hand to hand.
The Ball's Bluff battle was reported.
Many faces in Waytown turned pale, for " our boys "
were there. And in the next few days, " He is dead,"
" He is wounded," " He, too, is dead," were the sad
whispers which passed from mouth to mouth. Billy
Green and Baker, the sadler, were shot there, and Joe
Bentley, the big-hearted, big-bodied blacksmith's son,
These dead were not sent home, and all that the
fathers and mothers could say to inquiring friends was
that their comrades have written us how Billy stood
to the first shock like a man ; how, almost immediately
after it, he was seen to drop, never to rise again ; how,
near the end of the fight, Baker was seen standing with
the rest, waiting for the charge, with blood running
from his cheek and from his shoulder, two places where
bullets had hit him ; and how, after the charge, when
the rebels had fled and the smoke had lifted a little, he
was found, dead. This was all they knew, all we could
learn of the men of our village sent out to the war. Two,
at least, Baker and little Billy, would never return.
Thus the war became a more personal matter while
such news was going the rounds — a struggle not to be
fought out by strangers and to end soon in hurrahs and
holidays, but a reckless, hand-to-hand conflict, which
threatened to draw every one, man, woman and child,
in some way into the vortex of strife.
THE GUN-BEARER. 33
From the faces of the men around me I saw hope
fading, to give place to a settled, anxious but determined
look, while the cheeks of anxious women, of widows
and of fatherless children, were pale and tear-stained.
After months more of waiting Joe Bentley came
limping home, pale and weak, having been for a long
time in the hospital, recovering from an amputa-
Old man Bentley had mounted his big horse long ago
and ridden off to the South, and now, at long intervals,
his daughter — for he had no wife — would get letters
from him, saying that he was making a dash into the
enemy's country or quietly shoeing horses.
With Joe and his father both away, the blacksmith's
shop had been left to itself. Across the dingy win-
dows spiders had spun their dusty webs undisturbed ;
the big loose- jointed double doors, which Mr. Bentley
had swung groaning to, on the day he rode away, were
now as he had left them, closed and barred, and through
the many cracks and crevices in them you could see, in
the dim twilight which reigned there, no matter how
bright the sunlight might be outside, the forge, grim,
dirty and cold ; the big bellows, collapsed and gray
with dust ; the noisy hammer, now lying silent, across
the anvil where the blacksmith had left it.
Nor was the appearance of the adjoining house,
where the daughter and her aunt lived awaiting the
return of father and brother, scarcely less gloomy, with
its green blinds carefully closed, and the sparkling
whiteness of its walls staring out cold and lifeless
from the shadow of the waving trees above.
When Joe appeared in Waytown he seemed to have
grown suddenly much older, and his face, though tired
and worn, looked nobler and wiser. The village folk
would never have grown tired of asking him questions
34 THE GUN-BEARER.
if he had cared to answer, but he had no stories to tell
I remember that Parson Slim once asked him what
he thought of the war.
" Parson," said Joe, harshly, with no reverence in his
voice, and pointing to his stump of a leg, " it is a hard
fact," and he turned and limped away.
Joe soon got strong again, and the forge was no
longer deserted. The big double doors were thrown
wide open, letting in the daylight ; the bellows groaned
and wheezed ; a bed of live coals sparkled and glowed
in the center of the forge so lately cold and grim ;
sparks flew out from the red-hot iron, and once more
the sharp ring of the anvil, under the heavy blows cf
Joe's hammer, sounded along the quiet street.
Tommy Atkins and I were the only boys of our
crowd left. Perhaps Joe felt more friendly to us be-
cause we had been so much together before the begin-
ning of the war. At any rate, however silent he was
with others regarding the scenes he had taken part in,
he seemed quite willing to tell us about them when
there were no others about.
Often in the long dark winter twilight, when his
work was done we three met by the side of the forge,
and he told us of war and its horrors. As the twilight
deepened and the night closed in, war seemed to over-
shadow us also ; and while Joe went on, I could hear
the drums and the trumpets. I saw woods sparkling
with the flash of rifles, and with clouds of smoke drift-
ing off through the trees. I saw the grassy plain
strewn with the dead and wounded and the earth red
Did I fear war ? Was I afraid to go ? I think not ;
but I did see more clearly, and began to realize the hard
fact that the highway to a soldier's glory leads through
THE GUN-BEARER. '65
the valley of the shadow of death. Thus the first flush
of enthusiasm left me, and I began to look on war as a
business, for I was still resolved to go, if, when I grew
old enough to enlist, the fight was still on, resolved that
no one should point a finger at me, when the struggle
was over, and ask, " And where were you all this
time — you who had the opportunity ? Why didn't you
But my father would not hear of my going. War
was banished from all conversation at home, and I was
forced to wait in silence, with the echoes of battle shouts
and of rattling drums ringing in my ears.
But the excitement of those times, so powerful over
every one, combined with Deacon Miller's foreclosing the
mortgage he held on our property, affected my father's
health very sadly. He became quite ill and took to his
bed. We could see that he was failing day by day ;
doctors and nursing were of no avail, and we, mother
and I, were forced to watch his decline, helpless, until,
at the end of March, about a year after the firing on
Fort Sumter, he passed away.
A sad time that was for uz. the spring of 1862. Many
and heavy were the cares that were thrust upon my
young shoulders, under the ever increasing burden of
which I must struggle on for the rest of my days, but
in those stirring times no one could remain long a boy.
By the end of September, 1863, our affairs in Way-
town having been settled, and with barely enough to
meet the expense, we were ready to leave for Kentucky,
where mother intended to live with her sister. The
war was still going on, and I was old enough to enlist.
How eagerly I longed for the departure !
We arrived at my uncle's place in Kentucky after a
tedious trip in the cars. Delay, delay at every turn,
especially when we came near our destination, explain-
able only from the tumultuous nature of the times and
the moving - across our way of troops and provision
We were getting into the domain of war, and as its
spirit took possession of me the sorrows of my private
life faded away.
Mr. Nichols — my uncle's — family consisted of himself
and wife, both much older than my mother, and an
adopted daughter, Mary. There were two sons, Charlie
and Fred, each of whom had shouldered his musket and
departed at the beginning of the war, and neither had,
as yet, returned. From the last of Fred's letters, which
came at rare intervals, they judged that he was, about
the time mother and I arrived at his home, somewhere
in Eastern Kentucky or Tennessee. Of Charlie, the
elder, they had heard almost nothing since the first year
of the war. He disappeared in a battle, and all search
for him having been given up for a long time, they
came to think him as dead. Judge of their surprise,
however, when a half-demented tramp, wandering aim-
lessly through the village, brought word that Charlie
THE GUN-BEARER. 37
was a prisoner. As may be imagined, much of the
time after my arrival was spent in trying to devise
some means of determining Charlie's whereabouts, so
that they might get word to him in case he was suffer-
ing, and do all they could to relieve him. This did not
prove to be an easy matter, and they finally concluded
to wait until Fred came home, as his three years of ser-
vice had about expired. We were, therefore, looking
impatiently forward to his return, as he would be likely
to know, better than any one, how to go to work to find
his brother. In the meantime, I was making prepara-
tions in secret for entering the service, and cogitating
the best way to do so.
But while waiting for the time to come when I should
be ready to depart, I could not help feeling that this
going away would not be the easy matter I had once
How could I say good-by to the good, kind mother
with the tears in her eyes that I knew would come, and
how could I bring myself to turn my back on this pleas-
ant, hospitable home ? How would I feel when, taking
Mary by the hand and looking into her eyes, I should
try to say good-by, knowing that it might be good-by
forever ? The more I thought of it the more difficult
did it appear, until I became at last disgusted with my-
self. I was thinking too much of Mary's handsome face
and her sweet voice.
In the early morning, when the sun was bright and
everything was glaring and unromantic, I suffered
from the consciousness of having been a fool the day
before, and determined to be one no longer. I decided
that I would attend to business for that day at least.
After breakfast I strolled down the street and watched
the long trains bearing soldiers and supplies to the front.
At noon I returned for luncheon, and after it strolled
38 THE GUN-BEARER.
up to Fred's room with my pipe, for I was a smoker
now. Mary would, of course, appear there ; but how
could I help it, I asked myself. I was not obliged to
shun her ; besides, her presence was very agreeable to
me. She generally brought some of Fred's letters.
and the two or three that Charlie had sent home, and
we read them there together, she explaining what the
letters left unsaid, and telling me about the country,
for she had been through and was familiar with that
section ; and so, however strong my determination had
been in the morning, by dinner time, which came on
the edge of evening, I was as much under her control
as ever, and when we went for a walk afterward
my hopes and plans were almost forgotten, and I re-
membered only at long intervals that over there beyond
the moonlit hills were fire and smoke and blood and duty.
I went to bed to dream of her, and awoke next morn-
ing to the same round of savage resolution, battle and
At length Fred arrived, travel-stained, sun-tanned
and hungry. But what stories he had to tell — stories
to make us laugh, stories to make us weep and stories
that made the blood tingle in my veins ! I could see
how proud the father was of his son, and the mother
too, despite her tears ; and Mary — what would I not
have given to bring for myself such a look of interest
into her dear face.
One morning, soon after Fred's arrival, I found him
in the barn, enjoying a quiet smoke.
"Well, Fred, what are you going to do?" I asked,
striking a match on a post to light my pipe.
" I 'm going back ; I don't feel at home here, and so
much going on down yonder."
" Why, I thought your time was up ? Are you going
to re-enlist ?"
THE GUN-BEARER. 39
" I have already re-enlisted," he replied. " You see,
most of our fellows were awfully tired of tramping.
We had been at it three years pretty steady, so when
they asked us to veteranize, we said we would, if they
would agree to give us horses, make us cavalry, or
"Are they going to ?" I asked.
" I don't know about that. They promised to, so we
veteranized ; that is, re-enlisted."
" Then it is all settled. You are going back ?"
" Yes," said Fred. " This is only a furlough of thirty
days. They don't know it in there," motioning toward
the house, " and how I am going to tell them without
having a scene I hardly know. 'T was a terrible scene
indeed when Charlie and I went off. I don't want to go
through it again."
" Well, what am I going to do ? I 'm going into this
Fred looked at me, his mouth opening in^surprise.
"Why — what — you are too young !"
" That 's all right. I 'm not too young. I 'm big
enough, and it 's no use to say no. My mind is made up."
" Now, don't be in a hurry, Dan," said Fred, looking
serious. " This a bad business."
" That 's all very true ; but what am I to do ? You
know as well as I that there are younger fellows in the
Fred nodded assent.
" Then that is no reason why they wouldn't take me.
I want to go — have been wanting to go ever since the
war began, but I could never get the chance. Now
mother 's with her friends, I 'm going to skip, if I have
to do it when they are not looking."
" Better not do that. They '11 let you go if you stick
to it. After all, if you 've made up your mind, it would
40 THE GUN-BEARER.
be best to let you go. They '11 see it in that light, only
there'll be the usual amount of crying."
" I suppose there will ; but it can't be helped."
" But think a moment, Dan ; there are many sides to
this thing. A bullet through your lungs or liver or
heart or your head torn open with a shell, isn't the
worst of it. Camp life isn't all that it 's cracked up to
be. And then the endless tramps !"
I shuddered, but did not waver.
" But you say you are to have horses. Why couldn't
I go with you ? Wouldn't they take me ?"
" Why, yes, and it 's a good regiment to join, but it 's
not so sure that we are to have horses. They said so,
and there '11 be a row if we don't ; but we may not get
them, after all. But if we do, there 's the camp and
the mud and wet and disease and wounds and prisons.
There 's much to be thought of."
" And I 've thought of it. Why did your regiment
go in, if they once got out of it ? For the thirteen dollars
a month ?"
Fred scratched his head and answered :
" It 's hard telling what most of us joined again for.
I suppose most of us couldn't stay away if we tried.
The thirteen dollars had mighty little to do with it. A
fellow don't stand up to be shot at for thirteen dollars
a month, if that 's the end of it."
"But somebody must have found a reason. What
did they say ?" I asked, pressing the point.
" Most of 'em said they were not going to quit now ;
they would see it through. One man, when asked if
he was going to put his name down, said : ' Yes, if I
was out, I couldn't stay out while this thing is going
on.' One fellow, who lost his two brothers on picket
at Stone River, said : ' I owe the Johnnies something,
and I'm going to stay to pay it.' One man came out of
THE GUN-BEARER. 41
the hospital and put his name down. I heard another
man say he re-enlisted because the others did ; but
perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all was that made
by Eli Norcross. His mother is old and feeble in
health; his wife and children poor, and looking with
hope and longing for his return to their midst.
The boys all watched him as he came forward ; with
the perspiration starting from his face. His hand
trembled a little as he leaned over the roll, but he
" These fellows know all there is in it ; they don't
hesitate. I want my share. Now don't try to persuade
me not to go," I said, noting Fred was about to speak ;
" my mind is made up to that ; but help me to go away
"All right, I will, Dan. After all, you wouldn't be
much of a chap if you did not want to go. I was not
as old as you when I went. Now, what do you know
about handling a gun ?"
'* O, I know a little. There were few boys East who
could not go through the manual of arms with a broom,
and I learned it with the rest."
" That 's good, you 've got the motions, eh ? Well,
now, I will get a musket somewhere and help you a
little, for even if we have horses, it won't hurt you to
know how to handle a gun; and if we 're made cavalry,
we 've all to learn to drill."
We kept silence about our plans and went to work.
A musket was obtained and kept hidden in the barn,
except in the morning when no one was around. Then
it made its appearance, and I went through the drill at
the bidding of Fred. He seemed to take delight in
teaching me ; whether his mind was on such things, and
this gave him an opportunity to relieve his pent-up
feelings, or whether he tortured himself for my benefit,
42 THE GUN-BEARER.
I do not know. At any rate, in a very short time 1
grew accustomed to handling the gun.
Meanwhile, all knowledge of our doings was kept a
profound secret. We were going to put off telling the
folks until two or three days before the time should
come for us to leave, as we did not wish the time for
grief and tears spread out any more than was necesary.
I had been going through this exercise daily more
than a week, when one morning, while we were hard at
it, and more than ever oblivious to everything else,
something was wanted of Fred at the house and he
was called for. As no answer came to repeated calls, it
occurred to Mary that she had seen him strolling to-
ward the barn a short time before, and starting out to
find him, caught us at work.
I was not quite as quick as usual ; at any rate Fred
found fault at the slow time I made loading the gun.
He was saying : " That 's too slow," taking the gun.
" It goes to count like this — one, two, three, four,"
speaking quickly. " So now, then," handing it back to
me, "try it again."
As he stepped back to give me room I saw Mary
standing in the doorway behind him. The light was at
her back, so that I could not see her face.
" Fred," she said, in a soft, sad voice, " mother wants
I felt that she knew all. And when, after Fred left
us, she came up to me, I could see that her face was
pale, that her lips quivered and that tears were trem-
bling on her eyelids.
" You are going to the war," she said, laying her soft
little hand on my arm.
The blood rushed to my face, my heart seemed to
come up into my throat, and for the first time I felt
sorry for the step I was taking, realized what I was
THE GUN-BEARER. 43
breaking away from. But it was only for an instant,
although it took all my strength away and forced me to
sit down. Mary took a seat beside me.
"And Fred is going, too," she sobbed, turning her
I took one of her hands and drew her a little toward
me without her noticing it. My voice was scarcely
steadier than hers when I began, although it grew
" Yes, Mary, we are both going. Fred, although he
did not tell you, re-enlisted before he left his regiment.
He could not stay, and when he goes to join his regi-
ment I 'm going with him."
" And you would not tell us, Dan !" she said, reproach-
" It would have done no good. If we had, the fact
would have spoiled Fred's furlough. We were going to
keep quiet until two or three days before the time came
for us to leave."
Mary could not stop her tears. I was beside myself,
not knowing how to comfort her. I felt as if I had done
her an injury, drew her closer to me and tried my best
to change the current of her thoughts. We began
again to talk, and, once started, I could not stop until I
had told her everything. Many things I said that I had
never expected to say to her.
The sun was shining brightly that pleasant day. The
dry and withered grass seemed just beginning to turn
green, I thought. The air, the sky, the distant woods
and hills seemed just ready to burst into the beauties of
spring. My own life seemed rather strange, as my eyes
wandered from the quiet village outside to Mary's head
with its sunny, waving hair, resting upon my shoulder.
Yet I never wavered in my purpose to take my musket
in hand and depart when the time should come.
44 THE GUN-BEARER.
In the sweet, sad days that followed Mary gave no
sign to the others of what Fred and I had in view ;
only her eyes were sometimes red in the morning, as if
she had been crying, and once in a while I found her
sitting silent, her hands, from which the work had
fallen, folded in her lap, and her eyes dim and blank.
But we were more together now than before. I did
not try to avoid her any longer. There was a promise
between us, that if I escaped the clutches of war I was
to call for her. She would wait for me.
So these little scenes of comedy and tragedy were
enacted in and around that Kentucky home, and yet
unnoticed ; hours of drill in the use of the gun in the
morning ; long walks or drives with Mary in the after-
noon when the weather was pleasant.
But the time came when they had to be told — the
fathers and mothers, I mean. Fred and I came off
victorious from the struggle ; but let me pass over it
Two days later came the hour of parting. It was a
dark and dismal time, especially for me. Fred had
been anxious for the time to come. True, he was leav-
ing home, but he was going back to the camp of old
companions, to scenes he had grown to love. I was
going into a new country, to new scenes, regions of
death and horror, leaving behind me home, pleasures,
love — all for what?
At that time I could find no answer to this question.
But I would not turn back, and Fred and I departed,
About two o'clock in the afternoon of the following
day we reached Lebanon, a large town at the terminus
of the railway. The houses were old, dirty and dust-
covered ; the streets were thick with a fine yellow dust
which the feet of hundreds of mule teams and the
wheels of army wagons were grinding still finer and
throwing into the air until it was loaded with a yellow
haze that filled the lungs and settled like a mantle upon
At the quartermaster's department we learned that a
train was about to leave for our point of rendezvous on
the Cumberland River. We started out to find the
train, but it was almost sundown, and we were just
about to give up the search when a voice from a pass-
ing wagon hailed us :
" Hi, Fred, hello there ! Whoa ! Where you going ?
Here, this way !"
Looking through the clouds of dust in the direction
of the voice we saw a man standing on a wagon tongue,
leaning over the back of a mule, and gesticulating
" Come here !" said the voice through the dust.
"Who is it, Fred," I asked.
"It looks like Jack Maddox," answered Fred; "but
46 THE GUN-BEARER.
he 's so thickly covered with this infernal dust that his
own mother would not know him. Let's see," said he,
walking toward him.
1 followed and soon saw Fred grasp the fellow by the
hand, and heard him say :
•'Jack, I would not have known you for dirt."
"Well, there's a heap of dirt here for sure, but it's
better than mud. Goin' back to the company ?"
" Yes. But what are you doing here, driving a team ?
Haven't left the company, have you ?"
" Yes. You see, Fred, the horses haven't come, and
it didn't look to me as if they ever would. I 'm sick of
tramping, so when this chance opened in the quarter-
master's department I got the detail."
"Like it?" Fred asked.
" Like it ! Well, I don't like it so well as I should like
to be with the boys if they were made mounted infantry.
One horse is easier to take care of than half a dozen ugly
mules. But things don't look first-rate for the horses,
and I'm not goin' to take any chances ; 'sides, I get bet-
ter feed where I am, sleep in the wagon, and don't have
to tramp and carry everything on my back."
" There is no doubt about our horses, is there ?"
" They haven't come yet," and Jack shrugged his
" What do they say about it ?" Fred asked.
" I heard one of the officers say t' other day that Gen-
eral Potter had promised in writing that horses would
be furnished and the regiment should be mounted."
" There is no danger but what they '11 get 'em, Jack ;
they would not get us in under promise of giving horses
and then back out."
" Well, I hope they will ; but I am trusting Jack Mad-
dox, just now. But," he said, lowering his voice, and
looking toward me, " who 's that with you ?"
THE GUN-BEARER. 47
" That 's my cousin. Here, Dan," said Fred, turning
to me, " this is Jack Maddox. You remember I told
you about him. He 's the fellow who did the good
turn for me at Mill Springs. My cousin, Jack ; he's
going to enlist in our company."
" It 's a good company," said Jack, nodding his head,
taking me by the hand and looking me over seriously.
" There are no better men in a skirmish, and no better
men in a fight than those men ; they hang together,
somehow, better than most men, and you can't skeer
'em a little bit."
" Same officers ?" Fred asked.
" Pretty much. Of course you know of the new
captain. Hartee 's his name. Nobody knows anything
about him, except he 's seen service. He 's a good
talker, and if it hadn't been for him and the way he
talked about the horses at Strawberry Plains, I don't
believe so many of the men would have 'listed again.
But come, if you 're goin' to camp right away you might
as well get on and ride; it 's a heap easier, and it 's a
right smart tramp to the river."
We climbed to a seat beside the dusty, good-natured
driver, and while Fred and he discussed the probabili-
ties of the company being mounted, and all the little
odds and ends of camp gossip he had picked up relating
to the question, I lay back against a barrel and list-
ened, with my eyes closed.
Mile after mile of that dusty road we passed, nor did
we stop until long after sundown, when he came to a
halt by the side of a creek. Here we washed, built a
fire, made coffee, and fried pieces of beef, which, with
soft bread, completed our supper. Here also we slept,
wrapped in blankets — thanks to Maddox — by the fire.
Early the next morning, about daylight, after a hasty
bath and breakfast, we were on the road again.
48 THE GUN-REAREU.
Up and down hill we went, with nothing- but the
creaking of the wagon frame, groaning under its heavy
load ; the rattle and clatter of camp kettles, frying-
pans and buckets that were hung from beneath, the
shout of the driver, the crack of his long whip, or an
occasional remark from him or from Fred, to break the
monotony of the ride. On we went through Liberty,
Mount Gilead and Somerset, until, on the afternoon of
the second day, we came in sight of the river where Jack
Maddox, pointing to the side of a distant hill, said :
"There 's camp."
" What have they got, tents or log-houses ?" Fred
" Tents. We can see them a little further up on
the road," Jack answered, and we relapsed into silence.
Perhaps half a mile further, and we were at the top
of the hill, from which we could look across the little
valley to the camp.
I saw that it was situated on the north side of the
Cumberland River, on the hillside plateau above the
road, and that it overlooked the river, valley and away
to the hills and mountains beyond.
I could make out lines and rows and squares of
small tents, a group of larger tents, a flagstaff from
which floated the Stars and Stripes ; while here and
there the smoke from a burning camp-fire drifted lazily
along on the still air.
" So that 's camp, is it ?" said I, partly to myself, and
yet loud enough for Fred to hear, who answered :
"Yes, good place, isn't it !" he said, with a tone of
approval in his voice.
"It's out of the dust; that's one good thing about
it," said I, " and has a good prospect over the surround-
Then Fred and Jack compared its location with some
THE GUN-BEARER. 49
other place they had camped in, while I, partly listen-
ing to them and partly wondering what my first duties
would be, said nothing more. When we reached the foot
of the hill leading up to the camp we left the wagon, to
ascend on foot.
At the top we paused to look over the scene, and I
saw men moving about, building fires, carrying wood
and water, cleaning guns, putting up tents, &c, &c.
" You never saw a camp before, did you, Dan ?" Fred
asked as we stood there. " When the regiment is full
each company has fifty tents, divided into five rows,
and, with the exception of a company street, sometimes
twenty-five feet wide, a space of about six feet between
them. The officers have their tents near their com-
panies. Over there," said he, pointing to a row of larger
tents at the further end of the line, "is the regimental
headquarters. Just back of that, in that large tent, is
the sutler, where we can buy condensed milk at fifty
cents a can ; molasses cakes, not more than a mouthful,
at thirty cents a dozen; canned meats, oysters, fish,
preserves and jellies of all kinds ; even butter and fresh
milk and extravagantly high-priced eggs, and not war-
ranted good at that, are also sold there."
" What is that vacant space over there ?" I asked,
pointing to the open end of the plateau.
" I suppose that will be used mostly for exercising us
in horse-movements. But come, let 's go to the captain's
tent and report. There you can sign the roll, and we
can get orders for tents, blankets and so forth."
We approached the camp, where Fred was pleasantly
greeted by members of the different companies through
which we passed.
"Where's company D," he asked of a man who had
been tightening up one corner of his tent, and was
driving the pins into a new place.
50 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Lower end of the line," the man replied.
We soon came to the company, and after an intro-
duction and a hearty shake of hands all around, we
went to the captain's tent, where I discovered what
was necessary to complete my formal joining of the
I signed the roll, and as I made the last strokes to
my name I happened to look over the heads of the
officers sitting by the camp-table, to the back end of
the tent, and there saw somebody just lifting up the
flap, to come in. As he straightened up inside the tent,
I recognized, much to my astonishment, the stranger
of the Waytown Arms. But he gave no sign that
recognition was mutual. No doubt the face of the
boy who had listened to him reading the news of the
war had long since passed from his mind. I, however,
knew him at once, although he had grown older and
bigger. He evidently did not notice me or the stare
with which I honored him, for he turned to speak with
some of the officers, and I, pulling myself together, fol-
lowed Fred out of the tent.
" Who is that man ?" I asked Fred, as we came out-
"That's Captain Hartees, our captain," he replied
The conversation stopped here, and we followed the
sergeant, who took us to the quartermaster, where I
received a suit of army blue, overcoat and all — haver-
sack, knapsack, canteen, rubber blanket, woolen blanket
and half of a shelter-tent. Fred took the other half — a
tin dipper that would hold at least a quart and a tin
At Fred's suggestion I had bought at Louisville a
knife, fork and spoon that folded together completely.
In addition to the other things I also received a gun, a
THE GUN-BEARER. 51
bayonet, a belt, bayonet-scabbard, and cartridge-
With this load we followed the sergeant back to the
company, where our position in line was pointed out,
and I took my first lesson in tent-pitching.
First we obtained, from the woods near by, two
forked sticks for the two standards, and a straight stick
to serve as a ridge-pole. The forked sticks were then
driven into the ground, and the ridge-pole laid into the
crotches of these uprights. The two tent halves were
then buttoned together, thrown over the cross-poles,
and the ends brought to the earth, where they were
pinned tightly, forming a regular pitch roof.
All around our tent, which was about six feet long,
five feet wide, and just high enough in the center for
one to sit down inside and not have his head touch the
ridge-pole, we dug a deep ditch to receive and lead
off the water in rainy weather. On the inside, close to
where the cloth was pinned to the ground, we banked
up the earth to further insure protection against water.
From Jack Maddox we obtained all the hay we
wanted. This we spread on the ground, under the
tent, and covered with a rubber blanket. Our canvas
home was hardly completed when some one said :
" There goes the grub-call, boys. Better go up and
get your coffee."
"What, already?" said Fred. Then, turning to me :
" Get your dipper and plate, Dan, and let 's go."
With our new tin plates and dippers, Fred and I
hastened to interview the cook.
As we approached the fire, already surrounded by
men drawing their rations, I saw a stalwart negro, on
his knees, holding over a bed of red coals a frying-pan,
the sizzling contents of which he was turning with a
fork. The man was jet-black, apparently oblivious of
52 THE GUN-BEARER.
his surroundings, and was singing, in a low musical
" Nebber min' de wedder, so de win' don't blow;
Nebber min' de wedder, so de win' don't blow;
Nebber min' de wedder, so de win' don't blow;
Don't yer bodder 'bout yer trouble till it comes."
" Same old song, Lige," said Fred.
The man grinned, rolled up his eyes, and nodded in
assent ; then, starting quickly as he glanced at me, said :
•' Golly ! Dat you, Maws' Dan ? I 's glad ter see yer.
'Deed, I is."
" How 's this, Dan?" said Fred. " Do you know black
"No. I never saw him before."
" What ! Don' yer know me, Maws' Dan ? I 's Lige —
brack Lige, whose ole mamma used to tote yer in her
arms when yer wus a pickerninny. Don' yer 'member
" Mistake, Lige. I am Daniel Wright ; came from
the North, where I was born."
" Bawn in de Norf ? Wasn't raised 'round yuh ? Das
jes like yer — foolin' ol' Lige."
" No, Lige ; I 'm not fooling."
" Well, I thought yer was my ol' maw 's boy ; yer
does look pow'ful like him for sho." Then turning his
attention to the frying-pan, he added : " But I s'pose
yer wouldn't be 'round yuh, do ; yer wouldn't be 'round
yuh ?" Saying which, and as if dismissing the subject,
he sang :
"Nebber min' de wedder, so de win' don't blow;
Don' yer bodder 'bout yer trouble till it comes."
" I say, Lige," said Fred, after a while, " sing the other
one. I want Dan to hear it."
" Long 's Maws' Dan done born in he Norf," said
Lige, after a moment of hesitation and with a quizzical
GOLLY! uat yiii', jiaks' dan ."'—.See Page 52.
THE GUN-BEARER. 53
look at me, " I 's bound ter sing it. But dat 's more 'n
a song, Maws' Fred ; mor 'n a song."
Taking from the fire the pan he had been tending he
stood erect and fixed his eyes steadily on mine. His
gaze was sharply questioning, almost fierce at first, but
soon turned into a vacant, far-off stare, broken at length
by a sudden flash of expression, when, throwing back
his head and fixing his eyes on the sky, he broke forth
into a strain so abrupt, impassioned and of an energy
so wild that it seemed inspired by a soul too large for
mortal form. It was not Black Lige's voice we heard,
but the voice of his people, the cry of an oppressed
race, struggling, striking and dying for liberty. It
rang out in trumpet tones, drawing and thrilling the
entranced listeners, who came softly stealing up from
As the chant moved to a close the voice swelled with
the waxing theme, and Lige stood like one turned to
stone ; then, as tears started from his eyes, the tones
became more tender and subdued, dying away at length
in a hoarse whisper. Even after the song was ended
Lige's glance did not wander from the heavens. His
lips moved and there was a look in his eye as if he saw
in the air above a something that was vanishing, yet he
could not look away from it till it was quite gone from
view. When he did turn to the circle of silent and
awe-struck soldiers gathered round him he looked
dazed; and sinking to the ground, he covered his face
with his hands. After a moment, when most of the
soldiers had gone away, Lige got up and resumed the
work that our coming and the song had interrupted.
" Who is that man, Fred ?" I asked, after we received
our rations of coffee, hard bread and fried beef, and had
moved away from the fire.
" The captain's cook ; got him somewhere in Tennessee,
54 THE GUN-BEARER.
a year ago. Do you know, Dan, I 've heard Lige sing
that last song of his three or four times, and each time
I hear it there seems to be something new about it.
He 's a whole-souled fellow, is Lige, wonderfully clever;
got lots of good sense, and does about as he pleases.
He is quite a favorite with the boys. They never mock
him or impose on him in any way. He 's manly and
commands respect, in spite of some of his oddities.
Then, too, he will find things to eat when no one else
can. The captain fares well with Black Lige to care
for him. Funny he called you by name."
" Merely a coincidence," I responded.
" I suppose so." Then, as if noticing for the first time
the contents of his plate, he continued : " This is pretty
good, Dan ; we don't get fried meat very often."
" What do you get ?"
" Coffee and hard-tack."
" A simple meal for a hungry man."
"Yes, rather ; but to-morrow I '11 get a junk of salt
pork ; that 's the stuff ; that '11 give us a meal fit for a
king. There 's nothing like salt pork for a regular
'stand by.' With that, either fried, broiled, toasted,
boiled, baked or raw and a little hard, or even a little
soft tack to eat with it, a man always feels well, can
stand any amount of marching, and is never hungry.
You can do anything in the line of cooking if you only
have a little salt pork. If you have beans to cook, it 's
the pork cooked with them that makes the beans fit to
eat. If you want a little fat to fry your meat in, if you
want to fry pancakes, or do anything else under heaven
for which fat must be used, pork is the article you want.
It is the only butter a soldier gets in the field. Depend
upon it, Dan, there 's nothing like pork."
By this time we arrived at our fire, where we found
three of Fred's friends (Alf Kimball, Dick Taylor and
THE GUN-BEARER. 55
Jake Bence), Fred's crowd, as he called them, already-
seated on the logs about it, each busily discussing his
ration of beef and coffee.
Fred introduced me in an off-hand manner, and, as I
took my seat, I became so much one of them as if we
had known each other for years ; for formality, espe-
cially at meal time, has no place about a soldier's camp
fire. A man's heart naturally expands as his stomach
fills ; the fresh air flavored with odors of burning pine,
steaming coffee and frying and broiling meat lends its
charm ; an atmosphere of bohemianism, a spirt of
romance, and a sense of companionship in a dangerous
calling — all combine to find the " good fellow" lurking
(sometimes pretty well concealed in some of us) and
drag him into view.
Kimball was a good-natured, fine-looking fellow,
easy-mannered and possessed of a happy faculty of
giving conversation on unpleasant subjects a turn to
keep it bright and pleasant. He was always ready to
take things as they came, whether it was a plump
goose, a fat hog or an order to march.
Taylor was quiet, good natured, always ready to do a
favor for any one, and was popular with all.
Bence was a big-boned mountaineer and invet-
erate growler. To give Fred's own language : " He 's
a good feeder, brave to recklessness, good on a forage,
but he can outgrowl any other man in the regiment."
He had the reputation, also, of being able to get at
all there was going on among the officers ; and if there
was anything to be done, Bence was sure to know it
before any one else — excepting, perhaps, Black Lige.
I shall never forget this, my first meal in camp, as I
sat with these men on the logs by our fire, drank my
coffee and ate my crackers and beef.
The sun had set. In the fading light the distant hills
56 THE GUN-BEARER.
came out in bolder outline, and seemed to draw near,
while the intervals up and down the valley and along
the river deepened in color until they gradually disap-
peared. In silence I listened to my comrades chatting
good-naturedly over the incidents of their short fur-
lough — of their homes, of the camp and its surround-
ings and of their probable future.
Everything was so new — my uniform, belt, tin dip-
per, plate, the faces of the men about me, the surround-
ings — even the coffee, the hard bread and the fried beef
were a revelation to me.
And this was camp-life. I did not think it at all
disagreeable. In fact, it was a pleasant hour to me,
tired as I was with the excitement of new scenes, new
work. It was a pleasant sight, the fire in front of me,
around which our fellows were lounging ; the other
fires further off, with their groups of men against a
background of tents ; the clear night, with the evening
star as large as a lantern ; the night wind whispering
in the woods.
Of all, the hardest thing to realize was that I was a
soldier — not my own master, but a man bound to obey
orders — to mount and ride into the teeth of death if
need be. I turned this strange phase of a soldier's
character over and over in my mind, the voices of my
companions gradually fading from my ear, and in such
cogitations I went back to the first results of war I had
known — to the funeral of Mike Clancy at Waytown, to
the columns upon columns of reports I had read about
the battles and desperate charges of cavalry ; about
infantry facing, undaunted, storms of shot and shell
that were slaughtering them by the thousands.
But what had I to do with this ? Then I was a boy ;
now I was a soldier. Come what might, I would follow
Then Mary, in all the loveliness of her youth, glided
into my mind. Should I ever see her again ? But I
put that thought quickly away. What was she doing
then ? I wondered. And as I thought I seemed to see
her, as I had found her once in a while, when we were
together, sitting by herself, dreaming, and her vague,
tear-dimmed eyes fixed on the southern hills. And I
fancied myself at her side, although I knew those same
southern hills spread wide between us.
" Come, Dan, turn out ; there goes the roll-call !" saic 1
Fred, the next morning, punching me in the side with
his elbow. I awoke while the last notes of the bugle
sounding the reveille were echoing up and down the
river through the valley below. The sun was already
up and shining into our tent through the open end.
" Come, Dan, come ! A soldier is up at reveille," he
cried again, giving another poke to assist me in collect-
ing my drowsy senses. Throwing off the blanket I crept
out of the tent and looked about me. All over the
camp men were crawling from tents, rubbing their
eyes, and assembling in little groups in the company
" Good-looking men, Fred," I said, for want of any-
thing better, and accompanying the remark with a
yawn, still feeling decidedly sleepy and, withal, a little
chilly at being forced to leave a nice warm bed for
the cold morning air from the river.
Fred, on the other hand, was all life and activity.
" No better men in the country," he responded
briskly as he dragged our accoutermerits out of the
THE GUN-BEARER. 59
tent. " These men are mostly from the mountains of
Kentucky, thorough Unionists and brave to a man.
But come, fall in ; there 's the sergeant, and he' s going
to call the roll."
I was soon in line with the rest of our company,
responded to my name when it was called, and then
returned to the tent to roll up my blanket and clean my
musket, which, with Fred's, had lain between us all
night. While at work over it, I paused often to survey
the scene before me. The sun was shining brightly
over the tops of the hills, upon the woods and meadows,
and making luminous the thin wreaths of mist hanging
above the river. In the camp our little dog-tents
looked clean and white in the fresh morning light, and,
like the grass, sparkled with beads of dew. The mo-
ment was one of life and activity, our camp presenting
a most animated scene.
Never during a whole day does a camp look so popu-
lous as in the early morning hours, when every man is
up and busy about his tent, bringing things into order
for the day. From one end of the encampment to the
other men were scattered in all sorts of positions, some
cleaning muskets, as I was, and others building fires,
still others bringing wood and water. In some places
men had assembled in little groups and gossiped as they
worked ; but, as a rule, we were separated, each man
working by himself.
Working over a gun is good exercise ; at least, it
soon brought my blood into better circulation, filled my
lungs full of the fresh air, and in consequence dispelled
much of the discomfort of mind and body.
" Clean mine while you 're about it," said Fred at that
moment, coming up from the direction of the cook's
fire, and indicating his gun, leaning against the ridge-
pole just outside the tent. " How 's this for a piece of
60 THE GUN-BEARER.
pork ?" he cried exultingly, holding- up a piece of salt
pork that would weigh at least four pounds.
" What are you going to do with that ?" I asked.
" Show you when breakfast is ready if they don't
give us beef."
" Which I sincerely hope they will, for I don't want
to commence on pork before I have to."
" I hope you may always get as good, my boy," said
Fred, his face assuming a serious look. " I have seen
the time, more than once, when I would have given
almost anything for a piece of pork like this. 1 11 take
care of it now. It '11 keep and come in handy before
long." And he stowed it away in his haversack.
" How much longer do we have to wait before break-
fast is ready ?" I asked, having an inward feeling that
that subject was not receiving all the attention it should
" Oh, somewhere between half-past six and seven
o'clock. It '11 soon be ready now. Some of the boys
went down to the river for water right after roll-call,
and as soon as the water boils and the coffee is made
breakfast is ready."
" You don't need to do anything but wipe the guns,
do you, Fred ?" I said, after having wiped away every
sign of moisture from the barrel.
" Not while they are new," he replied. " After they
have seen weather and the fire-bronze is worn off it
takes a little elbow-grease to keep them clean. As long
as you can keep the bronze on, wiping is good enough.
Most of the boys prefer to keep their old guns to hav-
ing new ones. They know them, you see, and what
they can do with them, but they have to work a little
harder to keep them in shape."
I gave my gun an extra rub, rested it against the
ridgepole and began on Fred's. " What follows break-
fast ?" I asked him, after a pause,
THE GUN-BEARER. 6]
" Guard-mounting, I suppose."
" What is that ?" I asked, having, however, a fair idea
of what he meant.
" Relieving the guard that have been on duty all
" That is what I supposed. But is there any particu-
lar parade about it ?"
" Usually there is," he replied. " But how is that,
sergeant ?" he cried to the orderly sergeant, who was
passing at that moment. "Are we to have guard-
mounting this morning ?"
" No, not until all the officers and men are in. Until
then the guard will be detailed from the different
companies, without parade. It was our turn last
" Then we won't come in for it again for a week," said
Fred. " Well, I don't know if that is anything to crow
over ; we'll get our share in time, and not have to
forage for it, either."
After a while the men most interested in the prep-
arations for breakfast began to gather around the
cook's fire, where they stood dreamily gazing at the
smoke from the burning wood as 'it curled up into the
air, or watched the steam rise from the kettles as
the water in them began to boil. To those who pre-
ferred it a ration of uncooked beef was served instead
of fried meat. It saved the cook just so much labor if
the men took it raw, and many of us preferred to cook
it in our own way.
Fred and I, for instance, availed ourselves of the
privilege, and took our meat with a pot of hot coffee,
some hard bread, and a can of condensed milk, pur-
chased of the sutler, to another fire.
There, with my coffee resting on some hot coals that
I had raked from the fire, I placed my piece of beef
62 THE GUN-BEARER.
upon the end of a pointed stick and held it near the
flames to broil.
It was an interesting sight to see at least a dozen
men squatting round the fire with a dozen pots of coffee
resting on little piles of hot coals similar to my own ; a
dozen outstretched hands and sticks holding as many-
pieces of beef that shriveled, sputtered, smoked and
blazed in the flames, and the men, without an idea of
the ludicrous side of the picture they were making,
gazing seriously and earnestly at the sizzling beef.
The lower part of the beef cooked, the ends were
reversed and returned to the fire until the rest was
done. Then, with a little salt for seasoning, the meal
was ready, and, with an appetite sharpened by the clear
morning air, I fell to. Never did beef, coffee and hard
bread taste so good. The beef was cooked to a turn ;
the coffee was fine ; and the hard tack was fresh and
Breakfast over, the awkward squad was drilled by a
corporal, who acted as instructor. At first, we made
more or less awkward work of it ; but, by persevering,
our showing, in time, was good.
After this came dinner, which, while we were at this
place, usually consisted of some sort of stew, made of
fresh beef, potatoes and onions ; stewed beans and
pork, or salt beef and vegetables, with an occasional
treat of boiled rice to give a variety.
Day after day we went through this sort of thing,
becoming more familiar with the use of a gun, and
getting an infusion of military experience, discipline
and skill in maneuvering, that in every way fitted us to
drill with the company whenever they began.
As stragglers kept coming in all this time, our ranks
were soon full, and all the officers present — the colonel
coming almost the last of all. Everybody was on the
watch for him, and his arrival was known almost in-
stantly throughout the whole camp, although we were
busy with our supper at the time.
" Now look out for battalion drills and see if our
horses don't soon show up," remarked Fred.
"Yes, if we are to have them !" growled Jake Bence,
at my elbow, never taking his eyes from the beef he
was holding to the fire. " They 've as good as lied to
us, and I tell you, Fred, I 'm getting mighty sick of it,"
and there was a sour expression on his face which cor-
responded strictly with the sentiment and tone of his
The next day, as we expected, all the companies were
ordered out for drill, and we exercised on the parade
ground, in all known movements for infantry, for at
least an hour, marching, countermarching, forward,
right oblique and left oblique ; now at a double quick,
then at common time, marching with a full regimental
front, or in column, and then wheeling front into line.
Then came the parade, where we went through the
manual of arms, and at " rest," while the drums and fife
marched up and down the line playing " Yankee
Doodle," " Hail Columbia " or the " Star Spangled Ban-
Every day, when it was pleasant, we went through
these movements. I could not see the necessity for it
then, but I see now how important it all was. When it
happened to be stormy, the men who were not on
guard kept their tents and wrote letters home or
amused themselves in reading.
Those little dog tents were anything but comfortable
in wet weather. The space inside was very small, and
the cloth so thin that one could scarcely touch it on the
inside without getting wet. A severe rainstorm fell
upon us one day. Fred and I covered both ends of our
tent with rubber blankets and, sitting under the ridge-
THE GUN-BEARER. 65
pole, tried to write. But the wind, which had full
sweep of the plateau, seemed to drive the water in tor-
rents upon us. The rain beat so hard that it penetrated
the cloth and fell in a fine spray over us, wetting us,
and making the place so uncomfortable that writing,
was out of the question. We had to make the best of
it, however, and sat and smoked until the worst of the
storm was over. That was the most miserable and dis-
agreeably wet day I had passed yet. On every fairly
pleasant day we went through the same course of drill-
ing over and over again, always for infantry — there
were no horses yet.
The colonel had come. All the officers and men had
reported for duty. Still no horses.
The team drivers who came into camp or were met
driving by were asked had they seen them on the road.
And they answered :
" No ; not a sign of a hoof."
Still we looked for them. Still they did not come.
Disappointment was widespread, and grumbling grew
loud. In addition to all this, a rumor went over the
camp that we were soon to move. It did not seem pos-
sible that, in the face of the promises made to these
men, we would be asked to move without horses.
One afternoon Fred, Jake and I were sitting smoking
under a tree on the edge of the plateau, where we com-
manded a view of the road leading from the camp
down the slope into the valley, and for a long way up
the valley beside the river.
Jake had called our attention to a line of army wagons
on the road, saying :
" Here comes the grub train."
For lack of anything else to do, we were watching it
drawing near, one wagon after another appearing from
behind the woods.
66 THE GUN-BEARER.
" I wonder what that means," muttered Jake. And I
looked closely to see if there was anything that had
escaped my attention.
" What ?" I asked.
" Why, that wagon-train. It 's three times as long as
usual. Let 's go and meet it."
We went, Fred and Jake looking anxious, I thought.
We met the train at the entrance to the camp and
found Jack Maddox on the first wagon.
" Well, boys, yer off, for sure," he shouted as soon as
he caught sight of Fred. " This is the last train com-
ing down here. I heard 'em say so in the quartermas-
ter's office at Lebanon."
" I suppose so. But where 're the horses ?" responded
" You haven't got them yet, have you ? Didn't I tell
you so up in Lebanon ?"
Jake muttered an oath or two, turned away, and I
followed him, leaving Fred and Jack together.
" So we are not to have horses after all ?" I said.
" I never thought we would. But this thing won't go
down. The boys '11 — well, you '11 see when they hear
it. They have grumbled a heap already, 'cause they
thought they were exercising too much, as if they were
to be nothing but infantry. I, for one, don't propose to
We were not far from the wagons then, and looking
back I saw that a crowd of twenty or thirty men had
gathered about Fred and Jack and were gesticulating
wildly and swearing, and some of their faces were not
pleasant to look at. While we stood there looking back,
Peter Grimes, a veteran of Company G — old Pete, his
comrades called him — left the crowd, his face hardened
into a firm, determined scowl, and his short, iron-gray
beard curling with anger.
THE GUN-BEARER. 67
" Boys !" he .shouted with an oath. " I am done."
He stripped his belt, with bayonet sheath attached,
from his body, lifted them high above his head and
threw them into the road, where they lay half-buried
in the dust. He jerked off his cap and threw it beside
them. Then, running his fingers through the thick
locks of bristling hair on his head until they stood on
end, and with a curse that seemed to roll up from his
very bowels, he cried :
" I 've just come off guard, and by the living God, if
they don't give us horses, I '11 never go back again !"
and without another word, or a look to right or left, he
strode away to his tent.
I looked away from him to the rest, and saw that
many were preparing to follow his example, when —
" Boys, what 's the matter ?" said a quiet voice in
their midst, and at the same instant Captain Hartees
appeared from behind Jack's wagon.
Jake and I walked back to see what would come next.
" Where 's the horses we were to have ?" growled
several who had just been relieved from guard, and
stood with their accouterments on just as they had
come off duty. They did not turn toward the captain ;
the hard lines in their faces did not relax ; some of them
even took off their belts and pitched them as deter-
minedly and as resolutely into the dust as Grimes had
The captain walked up to the man who seemed most
determined and, pointing to the discarded belt in the
dust, said :
" Look here, my man, pick that up !"
The man looked up with a derisive smile on his face,
but the smile and the look of derision faded under the
piercing gaze of the captain.
" I know you are disappointed," said the captain ;
68 THE GUN-BEARER.
"so am I. We have done our best to keep our promises ;
but, because we have failed, this is no way for you to
do. Pick that up !" and the man, after waiting a mo-
ment, obeyed ; but his face, though the smile had van-
ished, was as hard and as grim as ever.
"There 's yours and yours !'' said the captain, turning
to the other men and pointing to the belts that they
had thrown away.
I was relieved to see the belts taken from the ground,
although the men held them in their hands without
making a motion to fasten them about their waists.
" Whose is this ?" the captain asked, without ad-
dressing any one in particular.
" Pete's," growled the first man who had been
" You take it to him then," said the captain, picking
it up ; " and tell him from me not to throw it away
again. He will need it by and by ;" then, turning to
the crowd who were watching him in gloomy silence,
he said :
" Boys, this war is not over. A great work still re-
mains to be done, and it needs just such men as you to
do it. When your time expired, you said that you could
not and would not leave the work unfinished. You re-
enlisted again, and I hope you '11 live in the service
until the last blow is struck and the war is over.
" But you did this with the understanding that you
were to have horses, you say. I grant that horses were
promised to you, and that they have not come. But this
is a greater disappointment to me than it possibly can
be to you, for I feel in part responsible. It was I, per-
haps, who urged you most, but it 's too early yet to give
them up. I still think the horses will come. When we
go to the front it will probably be in the cars from
Lebanon, and we shall, without doubt, find our horses
THE GUN-BEARER. 69
waiting for us at the end of the route. Till then, we
must be patient, and wait and walk. I know what
walking is, and want you to remember that I ask no
man to do what I would not do, or to go where I would
not go. I shall not send you one inch nearer the enemy
than I go myself. Great deeds are still to be done.
This regiment has done them and will do them again.
In the three years of your hard-fought service you
proved yourselves men. Don't shame your record now."
He turned, and walked calmly away ; but as he passed
us, I saw that his face was very grave, almost anxious ;
and when he had gone on some distance his hands met,
and clasped each other behind his back. His pace be-
came gradually slower, and his head fell forward on his
chest, as if he were oppressed with the weight of serious
The men remained standing for a few moments in
the same positions. The three who had thrown away
their accouterments were buckling them on again, but
they all looked as morose and savage as ever. We felt
that the storm had not broken after all, but was still
As the crowd separated Fred joined me, whispering
as he did so :
" It is not over yet. This is only a beginning."
That night the whole camp was gloomy ; no songs
were heard, no laughter. The men, squatting about
the fires, cooking their suppers, were silent and sullen ;
and when the evening meal was finished and darkness
had fallen, the same feeling of uneasiness was in the
air. Nothing was heard but growling and grumbling
on every side.
I lay for a while on the ground, listening to the dis-
contented mutterings of my comrades, and wondering
how and when it would all end. When my pipe finally
TO THE GUN-BEARER.
went out I put it in my pocket, arose to my feet and
Fred, who had been .seated near me, sprang to his
feet and followed me, saying :
" Where are yon going, Dan ?"
" I am going to walk," I replied. " I go on guard at
When he came quite close to me he said :
"This looks bad, mighty bad, and I don't like it."
" Neither do I. But what's going to be done. The
boys have been used badly ; there's no use denying it,
and somebody is to blame for it."
"There's one thing you can count on," said Fred.
" The boys are not going to leave camp quietly without
As we walked we approached the quarters of com-
pany I. Owing to the fact that this company had not
been recruited, there were fewer men in it than in ours.
But these men were veterans, who had fought side
by side since the regiment was mustered into service.
They were mostly from the same section in Kentucky,
all of the same habits of life, too — all mountaineers.
When we reached them they were grouped around
one fire which, uncared for, was dying slowly away.
The red embers glowed without giving much light,
but occasional flashes of flame enabled us to see the
scowling faces and iron frames of the men, who seemed
to be gathered in council, some standing, some sitting
on the logs and some lying flat on the ground, while
wreaths of pipe-smoke floated away into the clear,
They were not given to much talk, these silent, reso-
lute men, and we stood for some time on the outskirts
of the crowd before we caught the drift of what they
had been saying.
THE GUN-BEARER. 71
" They say we 're to have 'em bum-by, when we get
nearer to the front," somebody on the opposite side of
the fire was, saying.
" It's a lie," some one else growled. "Who believes
" What are we drillin' and drillin' as infantry every
day for, if we 're to have horses ?" said another. " I
tell yer, boys, it 's dog-goned crooked, an' we don't
There came a deep growl of assent from the hearers
Another spoke, after a pause :
" I '11 tell yer what, I 'm in fer the work, if they '11
use me squar', but I '11 be dogged if I 'm goin' to tramp
another three years and tote the duds I have had to, to
make me comfortable for the last three. I 'listed for
mounted infantry and not for ' foot,' and if they don't
give us horses I 'm done."
The silence which fell then was soon broken by
another harsh voice.
" 'Pears to me like the only chance the reb's have for
success is in our government goin' back on the soldiers
that 's willin' to do the fightin'. We 're strong 'nough,
know 'nough, and we 're brave 'nough, but the men
that 's over us don't know 'nough 'nd they can't do the
work as belongs to 'em ter do. We went through one
three years, and 'pears to me a man 's got no right to
tell us we 're goin' to have horses when he knows we
ain't, just to get us to 'list over again. No Kentucky
man would do so mean a thing as that."
" No Kentucky man would do it," repeated another
Just then the dying fire gave out a flash, and look-
ing toward the place whence the last voice came, I
saw that Still Dick Vedder was the man who had
72 THE GUN-BEARER.
spoken. He was seated on a camp-stool at the back of
the circle, a little apart from the others.
The sudden flash of light appeared to startle him,
and as he looked up I thought I saw a murderous ex-
pression just vanishing from his face.
Vedder was known as a strange man ; something
peculiar about him. He had no chums ; did not seem
to want any, and no one cared to cross him in anything.
It was told of him that his father, mother and his
wife and children were shot by a band of guerrillas, or
driven into the woods to die, and some one said that he
had sworn a fearful oath of vengeance.
This accounted for his hatred of the rebels. There
were strange stories told of his doings in battle. He
was reckless, brave to a fault, and would fight as long
as there was any one to figM, and had almost to be
driven from the field. Last of all it was told, and often
repeated, how, at Chicamauga, he walked up to a de-
fenseless prisoner and shot him dead. He had recog-
nized one of his father's murderers, it was claimed,
but the action was brutal. Such was the man — silent,
determined, reckless ; not to be turned aside when once
he had made up his mind to an action.
It was a night of cloudless beauty that closed this
most eventful and, as we learned later, last day of our
camp life at Point Burnside.
When we left the camp fire of Company I, Fred and
I walked together as far as the headquarters of the
guard, where we parted. Here I found the corporal
just about to take out the relief, so I fell into place and
soon reached the post where I was left to my duty.
Alone with the cold stars staring down from above
and my thoughts — which were not, on that occasion,
the most pleasant companions — I tramped back and
forth from a solitary tree, which was the boundary at
one end of my beat, in a direct line to a big stone mark-
ing its limit at the other end.
I could think of nothing but the disturbed state of
our camp and of the air of surly and defiant stubborn-
ness in the men of Company I. But, however much
my mind was occupied with a consideration of the pres-
ent condition of things and of the causes which had
given the boys occasion for grumbling, I still found
myself trying to reason out, to my own satisfaction,
what the result of this disappointment was likely to be.
As may be imagined, there could be one conclusion
from my point of view.
74 THE GUN-BEARER.
That there would be trouble was evident to all.
There was little that these men would not do if the
proper leader was at hand and had the courage to step
to the front at the right time. Recklessness certainly
had no limits to which they would not go if occasion
Again and again I came to the conclusion that we
were standing over a volcano, which might burst forth
at any time or place. And as often as I arrived at
this conclusion, and its horrible results became clear to
me, I would be aroused from my meditation, with a
shiver, to find myself standing still, grasping with both
hands the stock of my gun, the barrel resting across my
left arm, and my eyes fixed upon the ground. It may
have been the chill of the dew that affected me, or it
may have been the feeling of dejection with which I
seem to have been overcome, that was responsible for
these creeping chills ; but of one thing there was no
longer a doubt in my mind — this matter was working
me up to a high state of nervous excitement, and, for a
soldier, this ought not to be.
As I stood in the darkness and listened with anxious
ears, I would catch, now and then, a vague murmuring
sound from the camp, like the moaning sometimes
heard in a forest before a storm ; then the bodeful,
startling cry of some night-bird hovering over the
place would sound out upon the quiet air. Occasionally
I heard the slow and measured tread of the sentinel
whose beat adjoined my own.
The moon rose about eleven o'clock, throwing up a
delicate rosy haze at first, then mounted into a green-
ish silver, dispelling the melancholy gloom, and, as the
obscurity of the night vanished, I could look about me,
out over the vague unearthly landscape, over the hills
and dales, and up and down the shadowy, winding
THE GUN-BEARER. 75
river. Just then, also, a breeze sprang up, and the
dewy freshness that filled the air was a thing for which
to be grateful.
By the smoldering camp fires, I still could see indis-
tinct forms of men ; few had gone to their tents, though
it was long after " taps." The very air breathed sus-
picious wakefulness. Occasionally I heard footsteps,
not of my comrades of the watch, but of some one
approaching from the camp ; but those that made the
noises either stopped short or turned away before I
could make out who they were or what they intended
At length a more hurried and more decided foot-
step startled me. It did not turn aside, but came
straight on. My heart beat fast, and I confess to a feel-
ing of loneliness, as if every friend had deserted me.
Very distinctly do I remember also the stirring of the
hair upon my head, an effect, I had thought once, was
beyond the most extreme result of terror. A cold
sweat started from my face, and my hands grew wet, as
if they had been doused in water ; and had I tried to
run away I believe my legs would have failed me. I
had no time for a cool decision between the glory of
death at my post of duty and shameful retreat, for the
footsteps came pounding on. I was scared, and would
have run, but something beyond my power to name
rooted me to the spot.
Hastily summoning all the resolution at my com-
mand, and nervously bringing my rifle to a position of
defense, I cried with a voice as loud as the dry and
parched condition of my throat would permit :
" Halt ! Who goes there ?"
" Friend," came the response, and the dark form of a
soldier stepped from the shadow of a tree into the
moonlight, not ten feet away.
76 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Advance, friend, and give the countersign,' 1 I said,
in as steady and stern a voice as I could command.
" I haven't any countersign but horses. That 's what 's
the matter with me, 'nd I 'd as lief be sent to the guard
house for it as not," the man said, as he came to a stop
not two paces from the point of my bayonet.
" Well," I replied, gaining confidence in myself as the
knowledge that I was master of the situation dawned
upon me, " I don't propose to send you to the guard-
house ; only don't try to cross the line here."
The man moved away, and I resumed my walk with
a sigh of relief.
For a time everything was quiet. I saw nothing new
— heard nothing strange. The soldiers lounging about
the camp fires left one by one, until all had disappeared.
The neglected fires were fast dying out, and I was just
calculating that my time for duty was about up, and
that I would soon be relieved and asleep, when I saw
something moving among the headquarter tents.
Soon the black shadow of a man on horseback left
the camp and approached the line of guards across the
wagon road. It halted at command, approached the
sentry, gave the countersign, probably though I was
too far away to hear it, and was allowed to pass. Then
I heard, indistinctly, the hoof beats of a galloping horse.
I wondered what it all meant, and watched the rider
in his course down the road to the valley, and up along
the river bank ; saw him pass into the shadow of the
woods ; watched for him where I knew he must reap-
pear in the moonlight, and so on, until he finally
disappeared behind the woods of the valley. I turned
away, for I knew I should see him no more.
A few moments later I again heard footsteps ; this
time coming toward the camp from outside the line.
This was the first time I had heard any sound outside
THE GUN-EEARER. 77
our lines, and thoughts of an enemy at once presented
themselves, only to be dispelled by the thought that we
were much too far north for that. Strange to say, I
was not nearly so scared as on the former occasion.
A steady look in the direction of the new-comer soon
revealed our orderly sergeant, walking leisurely and
unconcernedly toward me.
" Halt !" I said, when the sergeant had approached
to within a few paces of me.
" Hello, Dan !" was the response. " Is that you ?"
I was somewhat surprised — rather pleasantly than
otherwise — at the first non-commissioned officer in the
company addressing me thus familiarly, so I replied in
a voice full of confidence in myself :
"Yes, it is I !"
" Has there been any passing the lines to-night
" Not on this beat."
" Heard anything or seen any of the officers of the
other companies ?"
" No. They haven't been this way !"
" Well, there 's lot of 'em out, and they '11 be along
soon ! We 've been out since sundown, and there isn't
a blessed one*of us has the countersign. Lucky for me
I happened to strike your post instead of that of some
of the men who came day before yesterday ; for you
happen to know who I am, and that makes it all right.''
"Certainly!" I replied, repeating the last words of
his remark. " That makes it all right."
" By the way, Dan," said the sergeant, pausing in
front of me as he crossed the line ; " I notice there 's
one thing you have either forgotten or have never been
taught. Let me show you how to hold your gun when
you challenge an officer."
This was a new idea to me, and supposing there
might be something that I had not learned in the line
78 THE CUN-REARER.
of respect due an officer from a sentinel on duty, I
handed my gun to the sergeant.
" Now, sir !" said the sergeant, sternly, bringing the
gun to a charge and pressing the point of the bayonet so
hard and close to my breast that I was compelled, in
order to prevent injury, to step back — back — back.
" Now, sir, supposing I was a stranger and an enemy,
who had wheedled you in giving up your gun. Where
would you be ? I could easily lay you out, eh ?"
This was a fact, and I had to admit it.
" I have purposely done this to teach you a lesson.
Always remember, when you are on duty, that until
you get the countersign, there is no more respect due
from you to your superior officer than there is to a
private. You are not supposed to know any one. What
you want, and all you want is the countersign ; and
that in every case you must have before you let any one
pass. Another thing ; don't let any one — not even a
general — take your gun away from you again. Never
let it go out of your hands. The safety of the army
depends upon the faithfulness of those detailed to watch
while others sleep. Never forget this. An unarmed
soldier on guard is as useless as a cat without claws in a
fight. Here, take your gun, hang on to it, and don't
give yourself away to your comrades to-morrow morn-
ing. The countersign is ' Sherman.' " Saying which
the sergeant left me and walked toward the camp.
I was somewhat humiliated by this experience, for
the necessity of being vigilant and alert was already
known to me. It had been impressed upon my mind
before we went on guard ; but it occurred to me that
this was an emergency, an affair where circumstances
seemed to alter cases — one demanding the exercise of
sound judgment. I saw now that I was wrong, and was
ashamed I had been so easily caught. The only bit of
consolation left me was in the warning 1 , " Not to give
myself away." It was evident my instructor was one
who considered only the importance of my efficiency as
Shortly after this I heard a commotion along the
guard line, and by the heavy tramp of feet knew that
my neighbor had been relieved and that it was my turn
When I awoke the next morning- Fred was already
outside, talking with Bence and Kimball, who occupied
the next tent. Kimball was saying :
" The - " - won't dare to order us off after what hap-
pened yesterday. They know mighty well we won't
leave here if we don't get them."
It was plain to me that horses formed the subject of
their conversation, and that, with the rising sun, this
one absorbing topic for discussion was returned to with
as much passion as ever.
" And I tell you they will order us out," drawled
Jake, " and they won't make any bones of it, either.
The men who left last night knew what they were
about." Then, after a moment of pause, he added im-
patiently : " I was a fool that I didn't go, too."
" Has anybody gone ?" I asked, sticking my head out
of the tent, and feeling, at the same time, that I could
account for one absent one if I would.
" I reckon there has," responded Jake, with a flourish
of the pipe-stem he had been cleaning. " Company D
lost two, three gone from Company I, and w r hen roll-call
is over you '11 find a heap more missing."
And sure enough, when the roll was called, at the
THE GUN-BEARER. 81
name of Hiram Haines no voice answered ; and so,
later on, there was no response to the name of Henry
The call over, we began to cook breakfast. All the
time the conversation moved upon only one subject —
horses, and the trouble sure to come if we were ordered
to leave without them.
" What are we going to do ?" Fred asked.
" Do !" sneered Jake, with his arms squared firmly on
his breast, the rugged wrist of one hand showing out
past the dark, half-concealed knuckles of the other.
" Do ! I don't want to be the man to give the order to
leave this place."
" You wouldn't mutiny, would you ?" I asked.
" Couldn't say what a lot of men that have been im-
posed on would do," replied Bence, with a challenging
glance toward headquarters. " We 're no fools, nor
cowards either, and they '11 find it out."
Immediately after breakfast we were ordered to
strike tents, to roll up our blankets, and get ready to
" That settles it," said Taylor. " There 're no ifs about
" Didn't I tell yer," muttered Jake, and both men,
from very force of habit, started to obey the order,
although they first looked around expectantly, to see
if any opposition was made. All over the camp men
were executing the command ; but slowly, as though
they were doing it under protest.
Shortly after this we were marched by companies to
the supply wagons, where three days' rations were
issued to us. Then forty rounds of ammunition were
distributed. This filled our cartridge boxes and left a
handsome balance to stow away in our haversacks with
82 THE GUN-BEARER.
Men were gathering in little groups, and in some
instances exhibiting considerable feeling ; still, there
was no alarming disturbance. I was all keyed up with
suppressed excitement. What could it mean ? All the
talk and bluster of the day before must have meant
something ; and that it did, indeed, mean something, I
saw too plainly, as I glanced at the faces of the veterans
There is a point where surly, dissatisfied obedience
ends, and mutiny — defiant, reckless and often deadly
mutiny — begins ; and this crisis in our affairs was fast
At last the tents were all struck, divided and rolled
up with the blankets. Every one had decided how
many of the little things that had been collected he
would want to carry in his load, and how many must be
When my accouterments were all on, my load, per-
haps a fair sample of the others, was as follows :
A haversack hung by a strap from my right shoulder
across my body to my left side, and in it were knife,
fork, spoon, plate and enough pork, hard bread, coffee
and sugar for three days. In my knapsack, strapped to
my back, were writing paper, pins, pens, pipe and
tobacco, ink, soap, towels, underclothing, stockings, etc.,
etc. Hung over my left shoulder was a canteen full of
water ; also over the same shoulder hung my blankets
and tent, rolled up tightly into a horse-collar shape,
and tied at the ends. From my belt hung a dipper,
a cartridge-box, which was heavy with ammunition,
and over my left hip a bayonet in its sheath. This,
with my gun, made load enough for one man to carry.
All that was now left for us to do was to kill time by
talking, smoking and lounging around, waiting for
orders. This is an experience which enters largely into
THE GUN-BEARER. 83
every soldier's career, and, already familiar with many
of the possibilities in this direction, I had seated myself
and was smoking my pipe and dreaming of home when,
unexpectedly, one of the teamsters arrived from Lebanon
with the mail.
Thoroughly aroused by the chances of that mail-
pouch containing a letter for me, I arose and, with
others, followed the mail-carrier to headquarters, where
the letters and papers were distributed.
There were two letters for me — one from mother,
which was opened first and read where I stood. The
other letter I knew, by the writing on the envelope,
was from Mary. It did not take me long to find a place
where it could be absorbed without disturbance.
Again and again I read it, until every word seemed
to me a text from which a sermon on the loveliness of
woman might be preached. I was assured that the
house was now very lonely without me. That my room
remained just as I had left it, and that nothing in it
should be disturbed until I returned. That every even-
ing, when it was pleasant, she had been to walk along
the same road and by the paths which we had so often
walked together, and that every step she took, every
foot of ground passed over, reminded her of some
word or look from me, which she had jealously hoarded
in the treasure-house of her heart. She would wait
and hope and pray for my safe return.
. By the time I had fully digested the contents of my
two letters and returned to the company, the incident
of the unlooked-for mail had apparently been forgotten,
and horses again formed the topic for discussion.
About ten o'clock we had left the camp ground and
were standing by companies in a line on the road at the
foot of the slope facing the hill.
" Where 's the colonel ?" Fred asked.
84 THE GUN-BEARER.
" He left last night, so the boys say," muttered Kim-
" Yes, and I saw him leave ; he went about midnight,"
said I, for the rider of the horse which I had seen gal-
loping away last night could have been none other than
" He did well," said Jake, harshly.
" Who '11 command ?" I asked.
" Hartees, I reckon ; he 's the senior captain. Yes,
there he is now !"
I looked in the direction Jake indicated and saw the
captain standing in front of the center of the line,
leaning against his sword, the point of which was rest-
ing on a stone behind him.
He was waiting until we should be joined by the last
of the purposely straggling squads which kept coming
in sight on the brow of the hill.
At last, a party of three or four came down, followed
by a lieutenant of one of the companies. The men
took their places in line, and the officer reported that
the camp ground was clear.
Then the command was passed from company to
" Right face ! Forward ! March !"
Away off to the right of the line the drums began
to beat and mechanically we obeyed the order.
Without the buoyant feelings and the excitement
that change is wont to bring, for even the drums seemed
to be affected by our discontent, and without other
noise, except the scuff of feet in the dust and a mut-
tered oath now and then in grim, determined silence,
we began our march.
But the complaints of Company I, which was directly
in front, kept coming over to us, keeping my comrades
in a chronic state of discontent. They had come into
THE GUN-BEARER. 85
possession of some liquor somehow, possibly from the
sutler, for he was a sympathizer in our troubles, and
that also added vehemence to their grumblings.
I think we would have gone along quietly enough if
left alone. Jake Bence was the most mutinous in our
company, and his growling was without effect, for he
was always at it ; but listening to the grumbling in
Company I, which was every moment becoming louder
and more excited, we were rapidly being wrought up
to about the same state of mutiny.
Besides, the sergeant of Company I was chiming in
with the men, and was as mutinous as any one. It
seemed to me, though, it was his duty to encourage a
cheerful obedience of orders rather than to discour-
Right in the midst of it, happening to look up, I saw
the captain standing on an embankment beside the
road watching the regiment, as company after company
marched past him.
No man's actions or bearing escaped him as the lines
marched by ; and although he seemed at ease, on his
face I plainly saw the same expression of anxiety that
I noticed there the day before.
Every muscle in his body was strung up to its high-
est tension. His face was paler than usual under its
coat of tan, and his eyes and hair never seem so black.
He saw clearly in what a demoralized condition his
command was, and knowing that something must be
done to improve it, was watching for the proper time
and place for action. Nor did he have long to wait,
for the steady marching brought Company I, with its
mutinous sergeant, directly in front of him.
The company was making its way along the road
with a shambling, devil-may-care gait for the most part,
and growling as they went.
86 THE GUN-BEARER.
The sergeant had not seen the captain, probably, for
he was saying :
" To be cheated and gulled into re-enlistment, as we
have been, and then to expect us to quietly give in like
a lot of whipped dogs ! I tell you, boys, I 'm not going
through this sort of thing for another three years."
" There it goes," said I to Fred ; " somebody will
catch it now."
I had hardly spoken when the captain, with two steps,
stood beside the orderly.
" Give me your sword," he commanded sharply, at
the same moment snatching it from .the sergeant's
hands. " You are under arrest ; go to the rear."
The action was so unexpected that the sergeant,
dumfounded, shrank back, and for a moment looked
at the captain irresolutely ; then, turning to the men,
ran his eyes quickly over their faces, as though seeking
some sign of encouragement.
The whole regiment had been watching the motions
of the captain, and, simultaneously with the arrest of
the sergeant, moved by a common impulse, broke from
the order of march, fell back, and gathered in a circle
around this center of interest.
In that center stood the captain, with his black eyes
flashing lightning as he swept the circle of faces, watch-
ing for the first sign of what was to come next. He
was playing for his life, and he knew it. He was one
man at bay, and encircled by a regiment — six hundred
angry, desperate, reckless men. It was a moment to
try the stoutest heart.
As I followed the captain's angry glances around the
circle of faces, noting the well-conveyed indifference
to his peril, the extraordinary actions of Still Dick
caught my eye. He was leveling his musket over the
shoulder of his file leader, and had lowered his head to
HE LEVELED HIS MUSKET AT THE CAPTAIN'S BREAST. See Page 86.
THE GUN-BEARER. 87
take sight at the captain's breast, not a dozen feet away
from the muzzle of his gun.
Dick was as cool as ice. His wooden face was as
vacant of expression as if he were about to fire at a
target ; his eyes alone revealed, in their cold, glittering,
cruel glance, something of what was passing in his
The two men immediately in front of Vedder, when
they saw the gun barrel appear between them, stepped
quickly to one side, leaving the captain thus face to
face with his silent enemy, the most dangerous and
deadly-sure man among us, who held a loaded musket
at his breast, making preparations to fire.
It seemed as if the silence, broken only by the
" click," " click," as Vedder pulled back the hammer of
his gun, could be felt ; and, while the crowd behind
the captain separated to the right and left to be out of
the way, the rest of us, paralyzed by this deliberate
murderous intention, stood spellbound, and watched
every motion with strained eyes, expecting to see the
fire leap out, and our captain fall bleeding and dying
in the road.
Yet Vedder did not fire, and those moments of hesi-
tation seemed to our torturing suspense expanded into
hours of waiting. The man's face was changing, too ;
taking on an ashy pallor and becoming expressive, first
a black, determined scowl and tightening of the lips,
then a nervous twitching of the features and the gun
barrel began to waver.
Quicker than thought — so quick, in fact that none of
us really saw it — the captain's sword flashed up beneath
the gun-barrel, struck it a ringing blow, and the mus-
ket, knocked from Vedder's nerveless fingers, exploded
harmlessly above our heads. And, in dumb, motionless
astonishment, we stood staring at the two men until
88 THE GUN-BEARER.
the captain, pointing with his sword up the road,
" Now, men, to business ! Fall in !" *
The hard faces relaxed, the trouble was over. A sigh
of relief parted the lips of all ; and, as we fell into line,
some one in Company I waved his cap in the air and
called for "Three cheers for our captain !" in a loud,
clear voice. They were given with a will, and it seemed
as if all the reckless desperation vanished in them, giv-
ing volume and power as it went out of the hearts of
men into harmless sound, ju c+ , as a heap of powder
touched off in the open air bursts forth into harmless
flame and clouds of smoke.
" Forward ! March !"
Was it because we were in fear that we now so cheer-
fully obeyed this command ? Did we repent our mutinous
attitude when we saw our captain standing before the
muzzle of Vedder's gun ? Wer^ we ready now to give
over our grumbling and go in peace, because the officer
in command had so ordered ? Were we fickle ? Were
all the grumbling and threats so freely indulged in the
day before all idle bluster ? With me it might have
been so, but with the others it was not. A thousand
times, no !
In that moment, when our captain faced Vedder, if
he had betrayed the slightest movement of a muscle, if
his eye had wavered from Vedder's by a hair's breadth,
* I often pause to wonder over this incident in our history. Why did
not Vedder tire? What power rested in the eye or will of our captain to
turn that man of all others from his purpose? What did the expressions
of Vedder's face mean, if they were not the outward signs of Hie struggle
in his mind? The determined scowl and tightening. of the lips signifying
that his resolution was wavering, and he was trying to force it to stand
His mental strain must have been terrible; but, though careless and
reckless of all consequences to do this one deed in the way it had to be
doue, he had not the nerve.
The captain did not stain his victory with any harsh measures, and
Vedder, thoroughly cowed and trembling like one stricken in years, was
allowed to tramp ou with rest.
THE GUN-BEARER. 89
he would have fallen at our feet with a bullet in his
heart, and a little later six hundred veteran soldiers
would have been tramping away from that place, in per-
haps as many directions, going back to their homes.
It was the man who could look death in the face
without flinching, that had caused this revulsion of
feeling, had excited the admiration of his fellows, and
had conquered. Among soldiers, it is not the face nor
the form, nor anything else, that is admired except the
will, the indomitable will that knows no fear. What-
ever sort of man our captain might turn out to be, he
was at least a brave one.
All day long, up hill and down, through mud and
dust, in broiling sun and cooling shade, we tramped.
Though the shoulder-straps of our accouterments were
cutting into the flesh, though our feet were blistered,
still we did not complain.
At last, almost at night, we came into a quiet valley
with pleasant fields beside the road, and fence rails for
"Halt!" came the command from the head of the
Here we were to camp, and we knew it ; a tired but
unanimous cheer waked the echoes of the valley.
In a trice our guns were stacked ; the load was off
our backs ; fires were built and supper cooked. We
were contented — almost happy ; for we were at rest.
The power of one man ; that power which had para-
lyzed Still Dick's finger on the trigger of the gun
aimed full at his breast ; which had quelled the mutiny
and kept us wearily but willingly plodding on through
dust and heat, all that livelong, tedious day, was over
us still : and when, at night, we gathered about the
cheerful camp-fires, with our pipes well filled, we came
to talk of that never-to-be-forgotten scene, as we re-
90 THE GUN-BEARER.
called the heroism of the captain and in our minds' eye
saw him again standing unflinchingly before the muz-
zle of Vedder's rifle, horses were forgotten, and our
weariness lost sight of.
Would there be any more trouble, any more attempt
at mutiny ?
Never. The captain had conquered the whole regi-
ment — made us as one man. There was not one among
us who would not have faced a battalion at his com-
Did we talk of horses ?
They might have been mentioned, but they were not
considered of so much importance now. The captain
had tried to get them, we said. The colonel was the
most to blame. He had fled, leaving another to take
his place and front his danger.
The veterans were loud in the captain's praise and
promised themselves that their old achievements would
be as nothing compared with the glory they would win
under such a leader.
The sentinels pacing the watch that night looked on
a different scene from the one I saw the night before.
They saw no restless excited forms about the dying
fires, heard no footsteps save their own.
Our regiment had, indeed, settled down to business.
We were on a war footing. One man had controlled
and united us into one huge machine, obedient to his
, We slept soundly, undisturbed by dreams of home or
friends or battles ; only for an instant, as I slept, Mary
seemed to be standing before me, and her eyes were
sad with tears. I seemed to be saying : " Now I am off
to the war"; and she vanished.
We awoke, footsore but refreshed. But we must " up
stakes " and be off.
THE GUN-BEARER. 91
The distance travelled that day, however, was not
nearly so great as that of the day before, but at night
there was hardly one in the regiment who had not a
blister to remind him of the two days' tramp ; and then
we saw something of the spice and wit that flow so
easily about the campfires of soldiers on the march.
At Point Burnside our life had been like a picnic, in
a way. We had a few hours of drill and duty, it is
true, but there was no danger and no changing scene.
We had collected, besides, little conveniences — bits of
comfort, as it were — but these were now left behind,
and I was surprised to see how easily we got along
without them. The days then were all alike, but now
no one could tell what the next hour would bring
For several days we marched from place to place,
but no day's journey was as long as the first ; resting-
places were more frequent, and the hours of camp more
pleasant. Everybody seemed in excellent spirits. We
were well, though simply, fed. Our blisters were dis-
appearing, and our load was getting lighter.
We were marching in a northward direction through
Somerset, Waynesburg, Stanford, Danville ; thence
across to Lebanon, where we were put into cars and
landed at Louisville.
Here, many were mustered in, and after a few days
we were cooped up in box-cars on the road to the
Travelling in box-cars is not the most comfortable
way of going from place to place, but we enjoyed it
Many were the little devices we made up to make our
By forage we collected hay and straw enough to
cover the floor of our cars, and on this we lay and
dozed, or listened to such parts of the stories that were
told as the rattle of the train permitted us to
We were hastening toward the front, covering a great
deal of ground without marching, and withoxit having,
as Jake said, " to take our accouterments ;" and for all
this we were thankful.
After we had travelled thus by rail for two days or
more, I awoke one morning to the consciousness that
something must be wrong.
I had an idea that we should be rattling and slam-
ming over the road as usual, but, on the contrary, the
train was now stopped, and the clatter I had gone to
sleep by having ceased, the silence of death seemed to
have taken its place. As I lay, for some moments, on
my Ded of hay, drowsily pondering the situation, I be-
came more and more aware of the fact that most of my
comrades in the car had disappeared, and that the few
whom I still could see standing at the door between me
and the bright sunlight were talking together and
pointing in various directions.
Raising myself upon one elbow, my eyes first fell
upon a broad river sweeping by. There was no breeze
to ruffle its surface ; no merrily dancing sunlit waves ,
nothing but a darkly flowing stream, smooth as a pol-
ished floor, sustaining a reflection of the opposite shore
on one side, and on the side nearest me a few wavering
creases of the surface marking the whirling eddies
94 THE GUN-BEARER.
Beyond the stream I saw the outcropping rocks and
heavily-wooded hills of a very broken and moun-
tainous country. Taking the whole scene together,
it made an impression upon me that I shall not
soon forget. Whether due to the wild and rugged
character of the hills and mountains, standing out so
bold and striking in the clear, strong light of the morn-
ing, or to the resistless rush of the river, which I in-
stinctively felt rather than saw, or to the unwonted
stillness into which I had been so unconsciously and
suddenly plunged, or to a mingling of all these effects,
I cannot say ; but whatever it was, some time passed
before I could make up my mind whether I was really
awake or dreaming.
" What river is that ?" I asked, throwing off my blan-
ket and coming to my senses, at least sufficiently to ask
At the sound of my voice two comrades by the car
door turned around, and at the same time the heads of
several others appeared from the outside. What a shout
greeted me as they heard my voice, and what unflatter-
ing remarks were bestowed upon me !
" Oh, you 're awake, are you ?" said one.
" If you are as much of a fighter as you are a sleeper
you will be a corporal before you know it," said an-
" You 11 wake up some fine morning to find out that
we have wound up this war business and gone home,"
continued a third.
By this time my connection with the regiment had
taught me to take such shots at my greenness in the
right spirit, and to give, now and then, a volley in reply.
Begging them not to let such tender solicitude for me
disturb their sweet repose, I repeated my question as
to the name of the river which, now that I had come
THE GUN-BEARER. 95
to the car door and could get a better view of it, seemed
more magnificent than ever.
" That is the Tennessee," said Jake ; " somethin' of a
brook, ain't it ?"
There did seem, indeed, to be a large body of water
passing by, and I said so, which induced Bence to
remark that the river was specially high this season,
which may or may not have been the case ; I did not
" But what are we stopping for, and where are we ?"
" Don't get anxious, little one," said Bracebridge, a
particularly quiet, unimpressionable old veteran in our
party. " You know as much as the rest of us do."
Bence broke in here to remark that Fred and one
other of the boys had been seen near the head of the
train, with comrades from other companies, listening to
our captain, who had been in conference with a lot of
strange officials ; and that, probably, when he (Fred)
returned to our car, we would have some definite
"And here they come now !" cried one of our men
from a position outside the car.
Shortly afterward Fred climbed in ; and we plied
him with questions to our heart's content. In the
meanwhile "All aboard!" had been called, and the train
began to move.
It seemed that we were within a few miles of Bridge-
port, Alabama — that we would probably have to leave
the cars at that place and go the rest of the way on
foot, as the track to the rear of Sherman's army was
already overcrowded with trains.
" I gathered from the conversation in general," Fred
went on, " that we have about sixty miles to go, over a
part of the Racoon Mountains near Shellrnound, to a
96 THE GUN-BEARER.
place called Ringgold, where Sherman's army is, and
if we don't find him there, we 're to follow on until we
"Mighty poor pickings we '11 get after Sherman's
army," muttered Taylor.
" Well, we can be trusted to make up for it when we
get a chance," said Jake, sententiously.
" Yes," Fred broke in, " and it looks as if we
were going to get a chance right away, for the captain
said that he was going to take us over a road that had
not been travelled before."
"That 's the kind of talk !" we all cried, impulsively.
After this, Fred's stock of information having been
exhausted, we fell to discussing the fine prospects of
good foraging, which we might reasonably expect, if
the captain did what he hoped to do.
I felt as if walking would rest me after being cramped
up in a freight car for three days, and, not knowing-
how the rest felt about it, I ventured to say as much.
This also shook down an avalanche of unflattering
" That 's all very well, but you just poke your head out
here," cried Jake, seizing my arm and leading me to
We were rattling along over the road at a good rate
of speed at the time, and though there was a sameness
about the green wall of forest foliage that fronted us,
I could catch, now and then, through open spaces,
glimpses of rugged scenery and of the eternal hills
" Yes," said I, " that is what I have been looking at
for some time."
" Well," said Jake, " those hills lie right across our
track, and by the time you have marched over them
two or three months and been in the service as long as
THE CUN-BEARER. 97 -
we have, you 11 make up your mind that there 's no fun
in tramping up and down hill all the time."
" Besides," interrupted Kimball, feeling that the sub-
ject of walking should be tabooed, and anxious to talk of
something else, " we are going to find it a trifle hotter
"A trifle !" cried Jake, as willing to grumble about
one thing as another. "A trifle ! it '11 be a heap hotter ;
the summer 's only just coming on, too."
In the midst of our good-natured chaffing, the train
came to a stop, and we were all ordered out. In a few
minutes more we had cleared the cars of everything
that belonged to us, and were marching up the track
beside the train. Afterward we passed through the
town and over a bridge to where we halted, to light our
fires for breakfast.
From this halting place, looking back across the
river, we could see Bridgeport and the railroad for
some distance, where long lines of empty cars were
waiting to pass the train which had brought us, and
start on their journey northward, for " more provisions
and more ammunition," it was said.
We learned, later, that we had enjoyed a special
favor in being transferred to the front in cars, as all
other regiments joining Sherman had been required to
march, because the railroad was taxed to its utmost in
carrying to the front ammunition and provisions.
As soon as breakfast was over, the command to " fall
in " was given and, as we stood in line, in the road,
fully equipped for whatever might happen, when we
had got fairly into the enemy's country, Captain Hartees
stepped in front of us and, calling : "Attention !" said :
" Men, we are just on the borders of a hostile country ;
our previous methods of marching will now have to
be changed ! I want you to keep close together from
98 THE GUN-BEARER.
this time out. No straggling, remember ! I hope to
pass through a country that has not been tramped over
by both armies and, if we do, I believe you will en-
Smiling, good-naturedly, as he concluded, he turned
away, took his place at the head of the line and, after
three rousing cheers, which we gave with a will, away
We followed the main road as far as Tyler, a small
town which we reached early in the afternoon.
There was nothing to be begged, bought, borrowed
or stolen in this place. It was literally cleaned out of
The few people still living there looked peaked, half-
starved and poor, indeed ; the rest had gone away,
leaving behind them only their houses and other im-
We filled our canteens with fresh water, however,
and, after thoroughly satisfying ourselves that there
was nothing else worth taking, we moved on, leaving
the main road, at that place, to follow one that evidently
had been less traveled.
Along this new road we marched for three or four
hours, without seeing signs of habitation of any kind.
There were neither fences nor clearings, nor any-
thing but woods and breaks, and rocks, that sometimes
lay close to the edge of the road, but quite as often had
rolled in heaps into it, making our path the roughest
kind of walking.
Late in the afternoon we came to a clearing, in the
center of which stood a house. On one side the land-
scape was just beginning to turn green with young
shoots of corn. On the other side vegetables, of vari-
ous kinds, were planted and beginning to grow. At
the open door stood two small white-headed boys,
THE GUN-BEARER. 99
watching us as we turned in from the road ; and within
we caught sight of a red-cheeked woman. Her sleeves
were rolled up as if she had been cooking.
" Got anj' chicken ?" Fred asked of the woman who
came to the door, as soon as she discovered our ap-
" No, I aint got no chickens, nor anything else, 'cept
a duck and a drake, and those I don't want to sell."
" Sure you haven't ?" Fred insisted. " No use to hide
them, you know ; if you 've got 'em we are goin' to
make a search for 'em. We'll buy 'em, but we'll have
" 1 tell you I aint got no chicks, nor ducks, nor nothin'
else. You'd better go on about your business. Come
here robbin* people !"
" Quack, quack, quack !" came from the back of the
house. The woman's face flushed as she started from
the door and ran round the house to a little pen that
stood behind, where we soon saw her struggling with
old Grimes for the possession of her duck, which was
flapping its wings violently and giving utterance to half-
strangled cries in a vain effort to get away from the
strong hand that had grasped its neck.
" It 's no use, mum," said Grimes ; " the duck 's a
goner. I '11 give you four bits for him, but he 's my
While she was fighting for one bird the other myste-
riously and noiselessly disappeared, and we were about
to investigate further when a beehive, that had been
upset to open a way to the honey, sent out a swarm of
maddened insects, and we fled before them. In spite
of the bees, however, some of the boys got a little
We left the young corn standing when we went, and
while our actions, looking back on them now, were
100 THE GUN-BEARER.
unquestionably mean, it seemed to me at the time that
the woman, poor as she was, ought to have been grate-
ful to us for not taking everything, whether we wanted
it or not.
The next habitation that we discovered on our march
was a large, fine-looking mansion, having a double row
of balconies running entirely around the house, and
surrounded by numerous outbuildings.
The sun was on the point of setting when we arrived;
and in a moment, after we were ordered to halt, the
place was swarming with our blue-coated men.
I saw a private of Company I fix his bayonet and run
it through a young pig that, with several others, was
following its mother at full speed away from him. A
number of our company, Fred among them, joined in
chasing the pigs that had not been secured.
I, however, felt too tired to go running about after
pigs, and so, with others, selected the house as the
scene of my explorations.
As we approached we saw a few black faces shyly
peering at us from around the corners of the building,
but we saw no one either to welcome us or to dispute
our right to enter and make ourselves at home.
Entering, we gave attention first to the cellar where
we found, among other things, a half -barrel of peach
brandy, some preserves and thirty or forty pounds of
honey. When we came up we found the owner of the
We had no particular use for him, but he was a sight
that, in spite of us, claimed our attention for some little
He stood on the stairs cursing and calling down all
sorts of maledictions on the heads of Yankee soldiers,
in general, and upon us in particular ; and his fingers
worked as though he would have liked to have a clutch
THE GUN-BEARER. 101
upon each and every one of us ; but he did not have it
and seeing, probably, that we were a few too many for
him, contented himself with words only. After silent-
ly enjoying his antics for a little while, we left
him, talking as loudly and as blasphemously as
Loaded down with bacon, honey, corn-meal, pre-
serves, brandy and wheat flour, we left the house and
joined some of the boys in the road. Other comrades
were coming from all points of the compass, some with
chickens, ducks, peas, fresh pork ; some with one thing
and some with another ; and, while we waited, out of
the woods, away up on the other side of the road, came
perhaps a dozen others, bearing on a fence rail several
portions of a cow which they had found and killed.
There was little use in our attempting to go much
farther that night, and it was with gladdened hearts
that we received orders to bivouac where we were. In
a short time a guard had been thrown out around the
house and the regiment ; rail-fences were then pulled
down, fires lighted, and in a short time a glorious feast
was preparing. We had plenty of everything that
night, and all at the expense of one man who, thus far.
had evidently not been treated to a taste of war.
There were a charm and a romance about this sort of
thing which rather pleased me, and I began to see
something of the glamour that surrounds the soldier's
life and leads him to reenlist in spite of ties of blood
Hay and straw from a well-filled barn supplied us
with comfortable roadside beds, and the next morning,
a little after sunrise, our breakfast eaten, we took to
the road again.
Since starting, we had been marching in column ;
now, however, our company were deployed as skirm-
102 THE GUN-BEARER.
ishers on the right of the regiment which was following
Fred explained to me, as we tramped along, that
marching thus, something in the shape of a letter T,
with a line of skirmishers thrown out each side from
the head of the column, we covered more ground, and
guarded more completely against surprises from the
The rest of the regiment marching in the road found
no difficulty in getting along but for our company,
scattered in a long line at right angles to the regiment,
with about twenty or twenty-five feet between each
man, this method of marching was hard work. With
no road or beaten path to walk in, we were compelled
to force our way up and down hill, through woods and
creeks, and swamps and tangled jungles and places
where it seemed as if the foot of man had never trod-
Sometimes we, at the further end of the line, would
come in sight of the road from a clearing on the top of
some hill, a quarter of a mile distant ; then the road
would be lost to sight for an hour, perhaps. Occasion-
ally we were walking comfortably along over some
sparsely wooded hill, where the bright sunlight poured
through the branches above us, and in a moment after-
ward we were plunging through the tangled under-
growth of some densely wooded dell, always trying to
maintain our distances, keep up with the left of the
line, move when the regiment moved, and halt when it
Dismal and lonely, with no other sign of life except
the whir from the wings of some bird, that had been
startled from its meditative solitude by our approach
or the far-off sound of " H-a-l-t !" or "At-ten-tion !" as it
was borne to us on the quiet air.
THE GUN-BEARER. 103
On one occasion, after we had been tramping for a
long time over this rugged country without resting,
Fred discovered a little clearing and a house hidden
away off to the right. It was a spot that did not appear
to ever have been visited by foragers from either army.
Just at that moment it also happened that our boys
in the road were called to a halt. Here was an oppor-
tunity for our own exclusive investigation that was too
good to be resisted ; and, stimulated by the same
impulse, tired as we were, we started on the run for the
As we drew nearer we saw a little shanty, or curing-
house, which held forth a promise of tobacco. A few
steps farther, and we saw hidden in a hollow a little stone
building sitting astride a brook, evidently a spring-
house, where milk, butter and eggs were kept. The
promise of something more than tobacco was enough
to divert our attention from the shanty, and when the
spring-house was reached it was but the work of a
moment to remove the wooden pin from the staple, pall
back the hasp, open the door and walk in.
The room we entered was not above six feet high
and, perhaps, ten feet square. It was provided with a
brick floor, in the middle of which, running from wall
to wall, and through a stone-lined ditch about two feet
wide and eight inches deep, flowed a stream of clear
cold water from a neighboring spring.
A single crock of fresh milk sat cooling in the water.
" They did not hide that, did they ?" said Fred.
" But," reflectively, " they Ve hidden the cow."
" We are not going to find fault with the milk for that,"
It was surprising how careless of dirt I had become
after being a soldier for so short a time. I rubbed the
dust from my fire-blackened tin dipper as well as I
104 THE GUN-BEARER.
could against a wisp of grass that grew by the door,
and scooped up a dipper full of milk.
Fred, who had filled his dipper before me, did not
even take the trouble to clean it ; just hit it against the
wall of the building.
After drinking our fill, we poured what milk was left
into our canteens and looked searchingly around for
" What's above here, I wonder ?" said Fred, looking
I glanced up and saw, just over my head, a square
hole cut in the flooring. Raising myself through the
hole by my hands, I got my head above the level of the
floor and, with Fred's assistance underneath, was soon
sprawling up there in the darkness.
" Find anything ?" Fred asked, expectantly.
" Yes ; here 's some tobacco."
"Throw it down."
I threw down half a dozen heads at least — all I could
find, at any rate — and continued my search.
" Here 's some beans or peas ; I don't know which
they are," said I, after a few moments' search.
" Let 's have 'em. We do not get peas or beans either
Down went the beans.
I felt along a little further and came upon a small
barrel which seemed to be half full of something, as,
when tipped to one side, it fell back heavily into its
" What is it ?" said Fred, hearing the jar on the floor.
" I don't know. It 's heavy, like sirup."
" Perhaps it is honey — strained honey. They hide it
in that way sometimes. It takes up less room."
We were in a bee country, and had found some honey
the day before. Why should not this be honey ? I
THE GUN-BEARER. 105
reached my hand down into the barrel until it came
in contact with a soft, sticky fluid. There could be no
doubt about it. My imagination swam in honey. I
did not have my share of yesterday's find, and with
that in mind, perhaps, my anticipation now was the
"Well," cried Fred, somewhat impatiently, "what
are you going to do about it ?"
" I smelt of it and imagined that it smelt very much
"Smells like it," said I.
" Taste it, or else let me," said Fred, impatiently,
catching hold of the side of the floor.
I took one taste and that was enough. It was
nauseating. It seemed as if I never could get that
taste out of my mouth, try as hard as I might.
" Dash it, it 's soft soap !" I cried, fairly shivering with
disgust, and my face, particularly the mouth part of it,
went through all sorts of contortions at the same time,
which were of course, lost in the darkness.
Fred who was looking up in expectation uttered a
snort, half of disappointment and half of enjoyment ct
my ludicrous mishap and said :
"Never mind, pass me down a dipperful " — and I
saw his hand with the dipper sticking up through the
hole, and I heard him say, as I was filling it ;
" I wish I had time to wash a shirt."
That night there came up a violent rainstorm that
seemed to have been sent purposely to unpleasantly
vary our experience. How long it had been raining
before I woke I did not know ; but I was fully conscious
of the fact that one corner of our tent had broken
away from its fastening and was flapping in the wind,
that my feet were in a pool of water and that I was
As sleep was out of the question, I put my head
through my poncho [rubber blanket] and went to a
sputtering fire that some of the boys had kept well
supplied with wood. To get dry was impossible. I
could only keep warm.
One after another of our rain-soaked and thoroughly
demoralized comrades joined us at the fire, where we
spent the night feeding the blaze, rubbing our eyes,
which smarted with smoke, and toasting our calves
By daylight the rain had ceased, and we were able to
wring the water out of our blankets and tents and
partly dry them by the fire before breakfast.
When our morning meal was finished and our damp
blankets and tents were rolled up, we went trailing and
sloshing along, through mud and wet, as disconsolate-
and gloomy-looking a column and skirmishing line as
THE GUN-BEARER. 107
ever ventured into an enemy's country. Shortly after
we started a drizzling rain set in and continued through-
out the day.
The boys all put on their ponchos, from the corners
of which the water flowed in streams and, in this
picturesque condition, carrying our muskets at a " se-
cure," we plodded along hour after hour.
There was little or no comfort to be gained from the
"rests," for the ground was soaked with water, and
sometimes we went in over our shoe-tops in the soft
earth. About the only bit of pleasantry offered during
the day came from Fred, who said :
" I did hope to get time enough to wash a shirt ; but
it 's all right now. All I need is to dry it."
The only encouragement we received came late in
the afternoon from " Black Lige," who, with a couple of
fat chickens in each hand, passed us, singing softly to
" Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow,
Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow,
Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow,
Don' yer bodder 'bout yer trouble till it comes."
Here was a bit of philosophy for me ; for our situa-
ation, bad as it was, would have been infinitely worse
had there been any wind blowing. The life of a soldier,
in fine weather, had thus far possessed for me an inde-
scribable charm ; but a soaking rain was something I
had not bargained for, and but for the sentiment con-
tained in the song of Black Lige, my patriotism,
which was already at a low ebb, would have disappeared
All day long we had marched over hills and moun-
tains,. and into valleys so deserted and lonesome that
they seemed isolated from the rest of the world ; now
threading our way along ridges so narrow that a dozen
108 THE GUN-BEARER.
men could scarcely walk abreast ; at other times slowly
pushing through the heavy wet undergrowth in deep
defiles, with towering, perpendicular cliffs on either side.
The sun was already getting low and the prospect of
finding a good camping spot for the night was dreary
and cheerless enough, but after a while, coming to the
top of a hill, we saw, in the valley below, a small village
nestled among the trees.
A little brook, concealed here and there by bushes,
threaded its way close by the village. Along the banks
of this rivulet everything was fresh and green, while
the foliage in the country beyond looked, in the murky
atmosphere, as if it needed a week of steady rain to
" There 's a good place for a bivouac," said I, point-
ing to an open field, near the village.
" Yes, looks as well as you might expect on a day
like this, but there are too many houses around. Too
many houses. You never know what to expect when
you camp near a town," Jake answered thoughtfully.
" But you don't call that a town, do you ? There are
only a few houses, and they certainly look honest
" Looks don't count for much down here. It don't
take much of a town to stir up -a hornet's nest, where
there 's a few lively rebs living. Just give 'em a
chance, and they 're like a lot of wolves ; they '11 sound
an alarm, and bring a whole pack down on you. I had
a taste of it once up in East Tennessee, in 'sixty-two."
" Come, men," said Corporal Stebbins, " we 're goin' to
camp on the other side of that town below there ; nice
place, heaps of rails, straw, water."
" What, water ?" interrupted Jake, sarcastically.
" Yes, and everything else we want. Move along a
little faster, men. Let 's get down there as soon
THE GUN-BEARER. 109
as the column does and have our fires started before
it 's any darker."
Stimulated by this cheering bit of information, we
put more vigor into our movements, and, after passing
one or two houses, reached a broad, level bottom-land,
where we halted and went into camp for the night. We
seemed to be in a sort of basin, surrounded by woods,
and only a short distance removed from the town,
which consisted of a dozen or more old tumble-down
houses, scattered along, at irregular intervals, by the
side of the road. These houses were without paint
and falling to pieces, and we would have thought them
tenantless if we had not seen two or three men stand-
ing about the doorways, who acted as if they had a
right there. The fences, that had formerly inclosed
the yards from the road, were all down, leaving only a
post here and there to mark the place they had occu-
The road itself showed signs of having been used at
some time or other, but it was now cut by deep ruts
and washouts, and the grass grew rank there. Alto-
gether, it was a sleepy, deserted place, firm in the grip
The zigzag fences in the fields gave us firewood ; and,
after a little patient effort, we got a fire started and
went to work to cook our supper.
The two or three men we had seen at last gathered
courage sufficient to satisfy their curiosity as to what
sort of beings we were, and came cautiously slouching
along the road through the camp, watching, with hun-
gry, wide-open eyes and mouths, our boys cooking
supper. They did not improve in looks on near view.
They were thin, lank, barefooted and dressed in tat-
tered clothes ; their beards were tangled, their long
hair uncombed, and their faces almost imbecile for
110 THE GUN-BEARER.
want of expression. They were the poor whites, cor-
responding to what are called "Crackers " in some parts
of the South.
" Hello, stranger," cried Fred to one of them. " What
do you call the name of this place ?"
" 'Coon Bottom," drawled the man, discharging a
mouthful of tobacco juice upon the ground.
" That 's for Raccoon Bottom ?" I asked.
" Yes, 'Coon Bottom," he repeated, looking at me out
of the corners of his yellow eyes.
"Can we get any milk here !" inquired Fred, as he
blew out the blaze on a piece of bacon he had been
holding in the fire.
" No cows," drawled the bushwhacker.
" Got anything at all ?" Fred asked again.
" Seen anything of Sherman's army ?"
" Do you belong here ?"
" Yep," and he skulked off after his companions, who
had gone on ahead.
" Didn't get much out of that chap, did you, Fred ?"
" No ; he didn't seem very anxious to talk."
" I wonder if they are all like that down here in these
" Whether they are or not," Bence broke in, " there 's
a devilish grin in their ugly faces that I don't like, and I
can't feel easy in this place, wet or dry. Wish we were
out of it."
So do I, if there is any harm in staying !" said I.
" The guard will have to keep their ears open to-night."
" Of course they will," answered Bence. " But what '11
that amount to, if there 're any bushwhackers lying
around here ? They '11 sneak up on the best of us.
THE :GUN-BEARER. Ill
These fellows will be away to give the alarm long be-
fore we can surround the place and keep them in with
"Well, I suppose we '11 stay, whatever comes !"
" Yes," he responded ; then, pointing to the hill, he
said : " There, what do you think of that ?"
I looked in the direction indicated and saw, fading in
the gloom, on the top of the hill, the dark forms of
" That looks like trouble for us," Fred remarked,
tersely. He, also, had followed the direction of Jake's
finger. " But, perhaps not," he added. " I hope not."
Shortly after supper the storm ceased, the clouds
parted, the stars came out, and the air became clear and
warm. After we had partly dried our clothing the fires
were allowed to die away, and the regiment, with the
exception of the guard, was soon asleep.
I was suddenly startled from my dreams by a wild
yell, a volley of musketry and the whistling of bullets.
Every man of us was on his feet in an instant. But,
by the time we had seized our weapons and rallied to
repel our enemy, there was nothing to be seen in the
darkness except the woods and the black outlines of
the houses here and there. Neither was there a sound
to be heard, save the thud and thump of horses' hoofs
retreating up the road.
Replenishing our fires with more broken fence rails,
we found, by the light, that Peter Baker, one of the
boys in Company D, had been killed outright and per-
haps a dozen others had been slightly wounded. Un-
doubtedly more would have been killed if the enemy
had fired at us at a little shorter range.
There was nothing we could do about it except to
attend the wounded and await further developments.
The camp was soon as deathly still as the dead form
112 THE GUN-BEARER.
of our comrade, lying motioness beside us, and there
yet remained many dark hours of the night in which I
might think it over. I was glad when I saw the day
break ; happier still when the sun rose above the edge
of the woods.
At an early hour, and after another, and this time
successful, effort to dry our blankets, and when every-
thing was ready to resume our march, we were drawn
up in line and addressed by Captain Hartees.
" Men," said he, " before we leave this place we must
bury Peter Baker, who was shot last night by that gang
of cowardly ruffians who fired upon us when we were
Two men detailed from Peter's company had already
dug a grave at the foot of a huge butternut tree, in the
bark of which a comrade had cut a large cross.
While they were bringing the body, wrapped in a
blanket, to lay it in the grave, we could see the hang-
dog, sulking vagabonds of the village collecting on the
other side of a distant fence.
This was the first death in our regiment and, coming
as it did, in a time of comparative peace, it oppressed
us with a sorrow more than usually keen and, as we
stood in silence about the grave, we marked well the
indifferent curiosity of the people who were watching
and grinning at us from behind the fence.
It was not the chance of battle, but an assasin's bullet
that took a comrade from our ranks forever, and many
a savage scowl came to the bronzed faces of my com-
panions ; many a muttered threat passed from mouth,
to mouth, against the wretches who were responsible
for this thing.
When the body had been lowered to its last resting-
place and the grave had been filled in, Captain Hartees,
THE GUN-BEARER. 113
" I want Comrade Baker's company to fire a volley
over his grave. Fall into line, Company D, on the
other side of the road."
Baker's company then fell into line as ordered, and
at the word of command, faced about, bringing them-
selves opposite to the distant fence, with the men from
the village partly concealed behind it.
" Ready !" ordered the captain.
"Captain!" cried the orderly sergeant of the com-
pany, " these guns are all loaded with ball."
" Silence ! Aim."
" But, captain — " said the sergeant, not wishing to be
" Fire ! Right face ! Forward march !"
We had little time and still less inclination to see
what the effect of that volley had been upon the people
in the vicinity of the fence, but there was evidently
some excitement over there, from the appearance of
" Served 'em right," said Fred ; " I only hope the seed
we planted fell into proper ground. This is the second
time we have been served like this by trusting these
" It is a little rough if we 've punished the innocent
for the guilty," said I.
" There hain't no innocent," muttered Jake ; "aU those
were gone long ago."
Resuming our order of march, we moved on without
a word. I was thinking of him who had been left
asleep under the butternut-tree, and wondering when
my turn would come.
Nothing unusual happened to us that day. We picked
up forage enough to give diversity to our meals ;
enjoyed the usual number of halts, and grumbled over
the same amount of tiresome marching as on the day
114 THE GUN-BEARER.
before. At night, tired, as usual, we came to a halt in
an uninhabited valley, and, after a supper from our
rations and forage, we turned in and slept, undisturbed.
The next day and the next we went through the
same round of changes, from rest to motion and back
again, up hill and down, with nothing especially new
to excite us, until the life seemed to be getting about
as monotonous as our existence had been at Point Burn-
On the evening of the second day after we left Rac-
coon Bottom, we marched down through Rossville, and
there reached the main road. We did not halt in the
village, but marched two or three miles beyond it and
bivouacked for the night.
The day following our arrival in Rossville was Sun-
day, the 8th of May ; but, notwithstanding the sacred-
ness of the day, we were on the march as early and we
marched as far.
There was so little to attract the attention on this
monotonous tramp that I kept continually thinking of
the changes time brings about. In my mind's eye I
could see mj r New England home, the village of Way-
town, steeped in Sabbath stillness. The shops were
closed and the roadways full of pious people, in response
to the tolling bells directing their way, with sober faces,
to church. I wondered if Tommy was among the num-
ber. What a difference there was between that scene
and the one of which we formed a part !
I thought of old Joe ; of the sounding horn, and of
the scene in front of the tavern on the night he brought
in the news that Fort Sumter had been fired on, and
then the stranger — now our captain — reading to us in
the tavern. How curiously it had all come about ! I
thought of the disturbance and of my father. Poor
father, a rarely good man at heart and made fretful
only by sickness. How it all came back to me, and
how little I then realized that the war would last long
enough for me to have a part in it.
116 THE GUN-BEARER.
This days' tramp was not as interesting as those of
the few days before, because, now that we were follow-
ing the main army road, those little delicacies obtained
in the fresh country we had passed through were no
longer to be had, even by Black Lige, the most sharp-
eyed genius for foraging in the regiment. Everything
eatable and drinkable, with the exception of water, had
been already seized, devoured or drunk by the hordes
of Confederates and Unionists that had preceded us.
Indeed, the region in which we now were had been
well stripped by the enemy before Sherman arrived,
and our people finished that work completely.
I was now more accustomed to marching, and, realiz-
ing more fully that every step was taking me nearer to
the front, I did not lack food for thought and excite-
ment with which to brace my nerves. Almost any-
thing, I thought, would be better than tramping through
that desolate and devastated country ; but the proba-
bility that only a day or so more of such work would
put us in the midst of action did much toward reconcil-
ing me to the present.
In this day's march we passed through two or three
villages, or rather groups of houses, but made no halt
among them. The houses looked so empty and deserted,
with windows open and doors agape and no signs of
life anywhere, that none of the boys were tempted to
All along the line of march we were constantly dis-
covering evidences of the wreck and waste of war, and
of the myriads of men that had marched that way
before us, and were then pressing hard upon the enemy
behind the hills in front.
The fences had vanished from the roadside and from
the fields as far as we could see. Here and there we
came upon groups of blackened circular places which
THE GUN-BEARER. 117
marked the location of camp fires. At times these
blackened spots were numberless, dotting the ground
for miles around. The turf was cropped short by
horses, torn up by their hoofs, and scored into deep ruts
by gun-carriage wheels. The lower branches of the
trees also, those within reach of a horse's teeth, were
stripped of leaves ; the bark had been gnawed from the
tree trunks, shrubs and bushes had been torn up by the
roots, and skeleton twigs and branches lay scattered
The banks of the water-courses showed the plainest
traces of the army. There, in the moist ground, as far
up and down the stream as we could see, were the
tracks of brogans, bare feet, hoofs and wheels, just as
they had been left when the feet were drawn out or the
wheels rolled on. If we had had no idea before, we
learned from these tracks what it was that had ground
the earth up into the fine dust that now rose about us
in stifling clouds at the softest footfall or lightest
breath of wind, and, floating away, covered houses,
trees, grass and shrubs with a thick, dry coat of yellow-
In this bed of dust we were constantly turning up
all manner of things which the army had cast away:
broken wheels, bits of harness, worn-out shoes, hats,
under-clothing, broken canteens, battered dippers —
everthing that was useless, worn out or cumbersome.
In a little rivulet stood, or rather lay, an army wagon.
The forward wheels had been dished as the wagon
came down the steep bank to enter the stream, and
there it lay, emptied of everything except the smell of
pork brine. One end of the wagon was beneath the
surface of the stream, and the water rippled through
and around it, while the dirty white cover flapped lazily
in the breeze.
118 THE GUN-BEARER.
Such were some of the scenes we met in that country
on that Sunday march. It seemed as if Sherman had
used the country as the men did their shoes and their
clothing — used it up and then dropped it in the dust.
That night we arrived at Ringgold, a town somewhat
larger than any we had passed through and decidedly
more populous ; for, although the former inhabitants
had, in great measure, disappeared, there were blue-
coats enough to take their places. Here was another
new and striking scene for me. In the place of white
tents scattered through the fields, there were the yellow-
white covers of army wagons, drawn up on the lawns
beside the road. They were the baggage and supply
wagons of Sherman's army, which could not now be far
in advance of us. In these wagons, also, I found most
positive proof that we were not advancing alone into
the enemy's country, but that not far away, though
hidden now by intervening hills, we should find the
encampment of friends. I even went so far as to care-
fully scan the country in front of me, to see if I could
catch the gleam of a tent.
While some of the boys were building a fire, I started,
coffee-pot in hand, for a well that stood near and, while
waiting among a crowd of others for my turn at the
bucket, I noticed, a short distance away, a pretentious-
looking mansion, which must have belonged to the
village magnate. The air of former grandeur and
present desolation that pervaded it attracted me so
strongly that I approached it to get a better view.
No noise broke the stillness surrounding the place,
nothing was heard except the rumble of some distant
wagon or the low growls of the tired and foot-sore
soldiers about the well. The doors to the house were
gone ; the windows were open, and without shutters or
curtains ; everything wide open and staring, like the
THE GUN-BEARER. 119
eyes of a dead man. Tastefully laid-out flower beds
were trampled out of all shape ; urns had been over-
turned and broken, and the contents, roots and mold,
scattered over the trodden turf. All around lay broken
pieces of crockery and of furniture. The marble steps
and the floor of the veranda were covered with dust
and dented with musket butts. Inside, I saw what had
once been a piano ; the cover off, the strings all broken
and snarled, and a jagged hole in the sounding board,
where a musket butt had been smashed down through
it, shredding it into splinters ; and as if this were not
enough, the keys of the piano had been broken and
some of them were sticking straight up into the air.
If the house and its contents had been fired and con-
sumed, I should have passed the place without thought ;
but, standing, as it did, in desolation and ruin, with that
unmusical ghost of luxury in the parlor, it left a picture
in my mind that I would gladly be freed from ; a pic-
ture which is like a lasting reproach. .
But little time was left me for gloomy reflections as
I was soon startled into consciousness of myself and
my duties on that occasion, by the voice of one of our
company who, in language more emphatic than choice,
demanded what I was doing there with the family
That evening I hurried through supper, that I might
use the fading daylight to add a few more lines to the
letter that, at every opportunity for several days, I had
been writing to Mary. Not an hour slipped by without
some thought of her ; not a day without some addition
to this letter, which I had carried in my knapsack. At
Point Burnside the mail had arrived regularly ; but,
since the day of our leaving that place, I had received
no letter, and, compelled to be satisfied with the ones I
already had, I lived in anticipation of the one that must
120 THE GUN-BEARER.
be waiting for me with the army in front. This even-
ing, not knowing how long it might be before our regi-
ment would be plunged into the very heart of strife, I
was especially anxious to improve the opportunity for
I had now determined to bring my letter to a close,
so as to post it in Ringgold, but it was a hard thing for
me to do ; there were so many little things to be said,
so many pledges to be repeated, that I lingered over
the epistle until the daylight was all spent ; then, under
the shadow of the rapidly approaching night, I folded
up the letter, and, almost with a wish that I might carry
it myself, placed it in the bag with other mail for the
After this I joined Fred, Jake and others of our com-
pany, who were just starting out to find the provost
guard, and from this source learn the latest news.
We did not find the provost guard, but discovered a
group of wagoners, which answered our purpose quite
The wagons were standing on the turf of an unfenced
yard beside the road, and in their order of arrangement
formed a crescent, between the arms of which brightly
blazed a most extravagant fire, that lighted up a picture
of camp-life comfort which left nothing to be desired.
The men looked contented, fresh and must have been
supremely happy in the knowledge that, when ordered
to move forward, they could either ride or walk, as best
suited them ; and they seemed to be experts in the art
of " taking things easy." There were men reclining on •
wagon tongues, others seated by the fire, and others
luxuriously stretched at full length on wagon seats, •
lazily watching the play of light and shadow on the
scene in front.
They were evidently just finishing supper, as some of
THE GUN-BEARER. 121
them still held half-emptied dippers of coffee ; while
others, with pipes already lighted, were enjoying- a
quiet smoke. Somebody was saying as we came
" It 's surprising how well they do feed us !"
" I tell you," said another, " there 's many a poor
chap in the army, doing garrison duty at some fort,
struggling with salt horse and smacking his lips over
it ; while we, always on the move, get fresh beef," and
the speaker jerked the coffee dregs out of his dipper
under the wagon behind me. " But, hello ! Who
comes here ?"
All eyes were instantly turned toward us, and one
man, while he gazed at us inquiringly, said, in reply to
the last speaker :
" Yes, and we are goin' to have it right along ! The
old man " [meaning Sherman] " knows enough to keep
communication with his base of supplies and good food
coming forward all the time." Then to us, while he
puffed hard at a short clay pipe : " Reckon you belong
to that new regiment, don't you ?"
It occurred to me at that moment that I had never
before heard so harsh a voice.
" Yes," I answered.
" What may it be ?"
" Twelfth Kentucky."
" What division ?"
" Cox's," said Fred.
" That's the Twenty-third Corps, Scofield's !"
" You 're right," we answered.
" Have some coffee ?"
" No, been to supper," responded Fred.
We advanced to the fire, took positions that suited us
best, and opened on the mule drivers with our questions,
Jake being the first to speak,
122 THE GUN-BEARER.
" What 's goin' on ? Why are you all here ?" he asked
with his usual drawl, addressing no one in particular.
Two or three made ready to reply, but he of the
harsh voice and the obstinate pipe, anticipating the
others, replied :
" You see, the old man's got things about right to
begin work, and he 's begun. Ain't he, boys ?"
" Yes," one or two voices replied, and one pleasant-
voiced fellow near me continued, this time getting the
start of the harsh voice :
" One fine morning, two days ago, the boys got orders
to lay in ten days' rations, and started off ; they left all
the baggage wagons here."
" They 11 be back in about four days," interrupted
the harsh voice.
" Don't you believe it," said the pleasant voice.
" They won't be back here for some time. Old Sher-
man is goin' to push the Johnnies, as they were never
" How many men are there with Sherman ?" asked
" Some say one figure, and some another, but they
all fix it about one hundred thousand."
" Is this all the baggage there is ?" I asked with a
surprised look at the little groups of wagons.
"That 's what it is, baggages for the whole army,
'cept what the company mules took."
" How is that ?" I asked ; but, feeling immediately
that this was a question calculated to show my ignor-
ance, I glanced at Fred's face to see if he disapproved-
of it. Judge of my silent relief when I saw plainly
that he was as much in the dark as I had been.
" You see," said our pleasant friend in explanation,
"each company has a mule and a darkey to drive it, and
between the two they carry all the cooking things."
THE GUN-BEARER. 123
" Oh, I tell you," said the harsh voice, " the old man
knows how to save lugging, and they do say that the
boys have better fixin's than the general officers."
" But where 's our division ?" asked Fred of a soldier
between him and me.
" Let me see," said the man addressed ; then, taking
his pipe out of his mouth, cried :
" Say, Bill, where 's Scofield and the Twenty-third
Corps ? Down at the Roost ?"
" Yes," answered Bill, from the other side of the fire.
" Well, Bill, you are wrong for once," said somebody
at my elbow, who up to this time had taken no part in
the conversation. Noticing how the others stopped to
listen to what more this quiet man might say, I con-
cluded that he must be the wagonmaster, as he was
looked upon as an authority.
" Wrong, am I ?" cried Bill. " What did that darkey
say who came in last night ? Didn't he say that the
rebs held the Gap and our boys were marching up
" Certainly," the quiet man assented.
" Then what 's the matter with what I said ?" asked
Bill in an aggrieved tone.
" Oh, dry up, Bill," cried several voices in a chorus.
" The boys want to find their division. Let the boss
tell 'em where it is. He knows more about it than you
"What is this Buzzard's Roost, and where is it?"
asked Fred of the wagonmaster, to change the conver-
" The Roost is a cliff, and overlooks a deep gap which
divides the ridge of Rocky Face, and lies away off down
yonder to the southeast " [pointing in that direction]
" about fifteen miles or such a matter. The Rocky Face
Ridge is a chain of break-neck hills several miles long,
124 THE GUN-BEARER.
and running north and south. Dalton, which I make
out is Sherman's present objective point, is just in
behind the south end of this ridge. The rebels are
now using this ridge as a fort, and they are spread out
along the top of it the whole length ; and at the north
end they turn off to the east at right angles and spread
out across a railroad that runs into Dalton on the other
side of Rocky Face. They have centered in one or two
places, and the Roost is one of them."
" That's all right enough," cried Bill, " but to get at
Dalton without leaving the railroad, we 've got to drive
the rebs away from Buzzard's Roost so that we can
follow the other railroad through the Gap."
" That 's what Thomas is trying to do. You see,"
said the wagonmaster turning to us, " this railroad, that
runs through Ringgold, enters Dalton through the Gap
in Rocky Face, under Buzzard's Roost, and Thomas is
down there with the Army of the Cumberland, the
Fourth, Fourteenth and Twentieth Army Corps, trying
his prettiest to get through, judging by the firing we
heard this morning."
" But isn't the Army of the Ohio there, too ?" ques-
" Of course not. You ought to know that. We 've
not seen anything of that corps yet, and we would
have had sight of it if it had gone down. Besides, two
days ago, which was before Thomas's army left here,
Scofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, was at Red Clay,
a long stretch off to the northeast ; but I heard them
say that when Thomas moved from here to Tunnel
Hill — a hill between the Ridge and the Roost, so called
because the railroad tunneled it — Scofield came just over
the hills yonder " [pointing behind him to the north-
east] " to Catoosa Springs. Now, I reckon, he 's spread
out in line about east of here, facing the south, and
THE GUN-BEARER. 125
trying to force that wing - of the rebs, which I told yon
runs out east from Rocky Face."
" Then, to reach our corps," said Fred, " we must
leave the railroad and start off across the country to
the east ?"
" That 's about it," the quiet man assented, " if you
want to go right away ; but, in my opinion, you '11 meet
them in an easier way. McPherson, with the Army of
the Tennessee, is far away to the south, a long piece
beyond Thomas's, and you may be sure he is there for
a purpose. If you start off down the railroad to-
morrow, I shouldn't wonder if, by the time you arrive
near the Roost, you should find that Thomas had al-
ready pushed through. In that case you '11 be pretty
sure to meet your corps somewhere on the road ; either
on this or the other side of Buzzard's Roost Gap. Ac-
cording as they march into Dalton direct from where
they are now or come around to this side of Rocky
Face and follow this railroad in."
" Well," drawled Jake, with a yawn and a stare of
amazement at the wagonmaster, " it is pretty evident
that there is something goin' on, and I guess we'll get
our share of it ; but I am dead tired, and going to turn
" Oh, you'll be in the thick of it before long, make no
mistake," some one cried laughingly after him as he
Fred and I stayed but a short time to finish our pipes,
and then we also turned in.
It was very strange how all my ideas of war had
changed since my joining the regiment. This was due
to the fact that my companions were veterans. Hearing
them talk so much of their battles, a feeling of contempt
for danger began to pervade me ; then, too, when I first
joined the regiment, I had an indefinite idea that there
126 THE GUN-BEARER
would be firing and bloodshed right away. I lived in
daily expectation of it ; but, as days passed, and, much
to my surprise, nothing of the kind occurred, this feel-
ing of suspense gradually yielded to one of indifference.
I had been wearing the blue for three months, and no
sign of the enemy had I seen or heard, except the hur-
ried shots in the dark at Raccoon Bottom. And now I
half expected to be cheated out of my glory, or that,
when it did come, it would not realize my expecta-
I do not remember that I ever slept more soundly than
I did that night, under the little five-by-six tent in Ring-
gold, by the side of the baggage of Sherman's whole
army, on the eve of the campaign against Atlanta.
Monday morning dawned fair. Our little camp was
broken early and, after several hours consumed in serv-
ing out rations, we were again in marching trim. From
this time forth we were going forward like other regi-
ments, prepared for days of hard fighting and forced
marches, and where the opportunities for foraging
would be few and far between. The cool part of the
forenoon had passed before we were able to move, so
that when we did leave Ringgold and the baggage-
wagons the sun was high and shining hot upon our
Beside the heat of the sun there were added to our
other discomforts the extra rations, which were a load
in themselves, and the fact that we were hurried along
without the usual frequent halts. Under these condi-
tions we had put miles behind us before we saw the
head of the column break and scatter to rest by the
" Here," cried Fred, when the halt was called, and
running, as fast as his weary legs could carry him, to a
little grass-covered knoll about one hundred feet from
the road — " here 's a good place."
But I was already at his side, throwing off my accou-
terments previous to stretching myself at length on
the dusty but welcome grass.
128 THE GUN-BEARER
" This has been the worst day yet," I said, throwing 1
myself down by the side of my cousin and pillowing
my head on my blankets.
" Hello ! what 's that — thunder ?" asked Fred, ex-
citedly, scanning the sky as he raised himself with a
jerk to his elbow and listened intently.
" It sounded to me like a salute being fired from a
gun, far away," I replied.
" Boom ! Boom I"
" That 's a fight for sure, and at Buzzard's Roost,"
said Jake, eagerly, who had also raised himself on his
elbow to listen.
" Reckon you 're right," responded Fred, as he re-
sumed a prostrate position. " Well, we '11 be into it
soon enough. It *s so long since I 've heard a gun that
thunder was the first idea which that firing put into
I lay for a few moments listening to this distant
booming of cannon and then sat up to see what the
veterans thought of it. But they seemed quiet and,
for the most part, indifferent ; many of them, indeed,
were already asleep. Only a few, here and there, gave
the incident special attention and then, merely, to shout
to some particular comrade that it sounded like old
times or to make some similar remark.
" Boom ! Boom ! Boom !"
I listened earnestly, vainly trying to interpret those
voices of war ; as if perchance they might tell me
which side was speaking at that moment and with what,
effect. The sound was low-toned and drawn out by
the distance, lonesome, and like a note of warning ; but
it seemed innocent enough to me, and try as I would I
could not connect it with battle or bloodshed.
There was an air of excitement and threatening in
THE GUN-BEARER. 129
it, but to me it awakened no personal experience, pre-
sented no picture of men falling dead in heaps. It was
to me the beginning of a new experience ; the first few
drops of a protracted storm into which I was about to
enter. Who could predict how I should come out of it ?
For some time we lay and listened to the sounds
which came to us — sometimes singly, then in groups,
and again in confusion — until the cry, " Fall in !"
brought us once more to a sense of the present.
Hour after hour we plodded on, the sounds of battle
becoming louder and more and more distinct, until Fred
said he thought he could hear infantry.
I could not tell, although I stopped to listen. For me
there was only a confused roar of sounds, some louder
than others, but I did not know enough at that time to
distinguish the different reports ; later, however, as we
lessened the distance to the conflict, I was aware that
the intervals between the roar of cannon were filled
with lesser noises, which the initiated recognized and
At last we reached an elevation not far from Tunnel
Hill, and from this point saw, rising like a wall before
us, but still far away across the valley, the rugged, pre-
cipitous sides of Rocky Face Ridge, full of such lights
and shadows as are made by ravines and jutting ledges.
There was also a lofty, darkly-frowning wall, with a
crest cut out in rugged peaks and hollows that stood out
in clear relief against the blue and white sky beyond.
To the left, directly across the valley from where we
stood, the ridge came to an end, sinking rapidly to a
much lower level ; but away to the right there seemed
to be no limit, and the ridge in this direction extended
away off until it met the sky. Even the gateway in the
Gap, under Buzzard's Roost, was not visible, as we were
not in a position to see through it.
130 THE GUN-BEARER.
We could determine, from what the wagonmaster
had told us, where it should be, by a little sharper
indentation in the outline, by heavier shadows, and
because, in this neighborhood, the smoke of the battle
seemed to be the thickest. But we were still too far
away to distinguish individuals. Masses of men, when
not concealed in the shadows of trees, were, however,
distinctly visible. We could see, also, the flash of guns
and the lasting color of flags moving hither and thither,
sometimes shining brightly in the sunlight, at others
almost vanishing in shadow or in smoke.
The crest of the ridge occupied by the Confederates,
from the north end, nearest us, and away to the south,
as far as we could see, was alive with men and spark-
ling with fire, while from every shadowy ravine that
scarred the sides of Rocky Face our troops were send-
ing out flashes in reply ; and from the whole surface
thin wreaths of smoke were rising and drifting off
among the leaves and blasted tree-tops, just as I have
seen the steam creeping up from the shingles of our
cottage roof, wet from melted snow.
As we have been told, the Roost was the center of
attack. There was the meeting-place and crash of
battle. Heavy banks of smoke were floating away
from this section, and the air above was dotted with
fleecy puffs of smoke from bursting shell.
It was a sight full of grandeur, and terrible — to me,
at least — was its import.
My heart for a moment stood still, but the intoxica-
tion of such excitement was not to be resisted, and it •
resumed its beating with such force that the blood
surged to my finger-tips. I would have rushed wildly
to take part in the struggle had not the distance and
the calmer actions of others restrained me.
I looked in the faces of my companions ; there w^s
fire in every eye, buoyant firmness in every step, as
steadily, surely, but not one second faster, they marched
on and on. Despite the impatience burning in their
hearts, their movements were as orderly and methodical,
and their bearing as unchanged, as if the battle smoke
were harmless mist and the roar of guns but the wind
moaning among the trees.
But as we advance with eyes fixed on the scene of
strife, the sun sets, the firing gradually slackens, ceases,
and the battle is over ; and when, as night fell, we
reached the rear of our lines, instead of fitful flashes,
the steady blaze of numberless camp-fires lit up the
About these fires thousands and thousands of tired
soldiers were gathered, each telling his own story of
There are those ever ready with brilliant pens and
standing far enough removed from any corporeal in-
terest, if such expression be permitted concerning the
strife of those two great armies camped so near to-
gether, who might have grasped the scene on that first
night we pitched our tents with Sherman's army, and
from their serene point of view have given a lucid
bird's-eye view of the whole situation. I saw what was
in my neighborhood only.
They would have painted in well-chosen phrases the
picture of that long valley, lying to the west along the
base of Rocky Face, all sparkling with union camp
fires, in the light of which were to be seen horses, cais-
sons, cannon and tents and men, everywhere. Men hard
at work as were the surgeons about the blazing fires of
the field hospitals ; men as couriers hurrying with dis-
patches from camp to camp ; men at rest, as most of
them were, grouped about the fires or dozing far apart
beneath the trees.
Mill creek would have been sketched as a muddy
little stream, hedged on either side by a thicket of bush
and creeping gloomily, stealthily along by the side of
our camp to pass beneath Buzzard's Roost into the
THE GUN-BEARER. 133
Confederate lines, unseen, except where in a few places
our fires extended to its bank, and reddened it with their
Beyond this, it would have been noted that Rocky-
Face Ridge reared its ponderous mass, blacker than
the night itself, until the eye of the observer reached
the top, which sparkled and scintillated with hostile
fires — all in striking contrast to the blinking stars and
slowly-drifting clouds above.
But the enemy did not have all of that long ridge to
themselves. Our boys had fought that day to some
purpose. They had won their way a little distance, at
least, up its craggy sides, among the rocks and stunted
trees. The northern slopes were ours, and we, camping
near this upper end while eating supper, cast many
wondering, curious glances along that line of friendly
fires, following it away up the slope to where it stopped
and a broad belt of darkness separated it from the
These fires seemed to beckon us ; and when our meal
was over, and it was arranged that some of us might
leave camp, my fatigue vanished and I joined Fred and
two or three others who were going on a tour of in-
As we climbed the hill our attention was attracted by
one especially brilliant fire. We found about it the
usual camp scene, men lounging about, sipping coffee,
smoking and chatting, while some were cleaning their
weapons. The excitement of the late struggle seemed
to have disappeared with its smoke and grime, for these
men conversed in low, quiet tones.
The hands that poured the coffee or lit the pipes
were steady enough ; it was only in the nervous, re-
strained laugh that they betrayed any trace of the
excitement of the day.
13-1 THE GUN-BEARER.
As we advanced into the light and drew near the fire
we were greeted with :
" In the advance to-day ?"
" No," we answered.
" What regiment ?"
" That 's a fightin' regiment. Part of Reilly's old
"Yes," Fred remarked in a quiet way, in answer.
" S'pose you had a taste of tumblin' over the rocks
like the rest of us ?"
" No," said Fred ; "we 're only just from Ringgold."
"What !" exclaimed our interrogator. " The Twelfth
Kentucky, and not in a fight ?"
" This is the time we missed it. We veteranized a
couple of months ago, had a furlough, and have only
just now turned up for another three years."
" Well, that beats me ! The Twelfth Kentucky and
not — Oh, well, you 're here early enough. Been to
supper ? Have ? Well, take some coffee with us, any-
how. Here you, Fattie " [to a veteran, who seemed to
have the coffee-pot under his special charge], " pass these
comrades some coffee."
Fattie, who was tall and as thin as a rail, duly obeyed,
handing us the boiling-hot, inky, aromatic fluid in
blackened, dented cups.
We sat down by the fire, sipped the coffee and soon
learned that the regiment to which this group belonged
was part of Newton's Division of the Fourth Army
Corps, and that they had been in a skirmishing line all
In answer to a question as to what they had done
that day, one emphatic man they called Sandy cried :
" What have we done ? Look you ! You see those camp
fires down there ?" pointing to the valley. " Well, they
THE GUN-BEARER. 135
have not moved. They were there in the same place
last night ; but here, last night the rebs slept. We
drove 'em out to-day, we did. It cost us heavy, but we
" You 're right, it cost us heavy," said another voice.
" How they picked us off ! But what a charge that was
over such a mass of loose rock, and in the face of such
a fire. Pratt and Sager fell first, away down in the
bottom yonder, just after we started. While we were
running up Magoun, just to the left of me, stumbled on
a tilting rock. I had to laugh to see him run along on all
fours before he could recover. But he had only just
got straightened up, poor fellow, when over he went
for good. That brought Ripley next to me in the line,
but we hadn't gone a dozen rods together when he cried
out : ' Oh, Bill !' and dropped. Clark, Kelley and Booth
fell at the same time just about here ; and just on the
edge of the ridge out yonder, we left the orderly and
Tom Cranford — and I know there was a heap more
from some of the other companies dropped in the same
" What, did you get much further up ?" asked Fred.
" You bet we did," he replied, " and our pickets are
out there now, I reckon, but it costs, it costs, just as
Sandy says. They dropped us along here pretty thick,
and it got to be mighty lonesome before we came to the
end of the race."
" Lonesome," echoed the deep-toned voice of a gray-
bearded Illinoisan. " You were all together when you
started out of the woods below, on that double quick
up the hill, a-dodging from stump to rock, and from
rock to tree, but I was away out on the left of the line
and, somehow, in spite of all I could do, I kept getting
farther and farther away from you, and edging toward
the gulley which separated us from Company H. No
136 THE GUN-BEARER.
mistake about it, the Johnnies were too many for me.
Shot and shell were falling like rain out there, and the
ground was getting a terrible sweeping." He paused
as though to put back the thoughts that were crowding
upon him, but as the rest of us waited for him to con-
tinue, he took up the story again.
" While I tried to get back into my old spot, a piece
of shell struck my gunstock, knocked it into splinters,
and laid me flat as a pancake. I thought I was done
for. Oh, you needn't smile, you fellows, you have been
through the same thing yourselves, but I soon found
out what the trouble was, and that I was not hurt much.
Of course, I was no good without a gun, and so I held
back until I could get one. In a few minutes a fellow
just ahead of me, threw up his hands and fell backward.
This was my chance and I soon had the gun he dropped.
'T was barber Jim," [falteringly] "you all know him — of
Company H — Jim, when I reached him, was trying to
cover with his hand a hole in his breast that looked al-
most large enough to put your fist in. The blood was
running out between his fingers, and such a pitiful look
as poor Jim gave me, as I took up his rifle and hurried
away. I tell you what, boys," [and the bronzed face of
the speaker beamed on the upturned faces around him]
" I 'm right glad to get back to the company again.
I 've been in a good many skirmish lines before, but
never in one when I was so blamed lonesome as to-day."
" Begorra, and its meself that 's always lonesome in a
skirmish," observed one of the listeners. " Sure, there 's
no fun in it at all, at all ; a man 's always alone in such
work, wid divil a sowl near him. I always feel as if
every Johnnie had his murtherin' eye on me. By the
same token, it 's Pat Cragin that would rather be at
home carrying the hod, than standing up and stoppin'
bullets for the rebs. Holy Mother, there 's the liftinint,
THE GUN-BEARER. 137
and him we left on the crust up yonder wid a hole in
" Only stunned a little, that's all," quietly observed
the officer, who at this moment emerged from the dark-
ness beyond, and was passing near enough to be seen
by the light of the fire.
" Sure it 's meself that 's glad to hear you say so,"
answered Pat ; and, as our little group watched the
officer until he disappeared in the darkness, he con-
tinued, speaking lower : " There goes a foine officer ;
divil a better ever drew a sword or led a charge. If he
ever gets his min into trouble, bedad, but he 's the boy
that can get them out. I like him better 'n I did the
cap'n, poor felly."
After this there was a moment of silence, for Cragin's
homely words had struck responsive chords in many
breasts, and afterward the talk became general. While
many little dialogues were passing among the boys who
had come up with me and the soldiers about the camp-fire,
I turned to Cragin, who was sitting just at my left, and
asked if he thought there would be any fighting the
" Fittin', is it ? Faith, 'nd ye may just count on that
same. We'll skirmish to-morrow, just as we did to-day.
Sure, we 're only keepin' the Johnnies busy till
McPherson has a chance to get in his work ; that 's him
down there," said Cragin, in explanation, pointing away
out over the landscape into the darkness.
"Where?" I asked, trying to follow the direction
" The light from the fire *s too glaring to see it well.
Just shade your eyes at the side a bit and look down
there. Do you see a red glare in the sky ?"
" I think I do."
" Well, that 's him, and them 's McPherson's camp-
138 THE GUN-BEARER.
fires that 's reddenin' the clouds ! The old man wants
McPherson or some of 'em to get round into the rear
of the rebs. The divil fly away wid 'em. It takes
a power of marching to satisfy Sherman ; but, begorra,
it is the kind of marching that counts and makes the
inimy skedaddle all the same !"
It was a comfort for me to hear that tramping paid,
and that it was bringing about the desired result. But
what did that result signify to those who had that day
fallen ? This was the question I pondered. However
great the importance of this movement might be to
Sherman and to the country, my mind refused to leave
my individual prospects. I could see myself an actor in
just such scenes as had been described. Henceforth, until
the end, I was to be one of those who must do not only
the marching but the skirmishing.
How long would it be before I should find myself
enveloped in that leaden storm ? How much time
might there be left me to think of home and of those I
loved ? How long would it be before Fred or Jake or
some others of my company about their camp-fires
might speak of me as these soldiers spoke of poor
Tom Cranford ?" We left him just out on the ridge
" Where were you to-day ?" asked Cragin, interrupting
my melancholy dreaming. " What part of the line were
yon in ?" and he looked at me from cap to shoes, as if it
had just occurred to him that not only was I a stranger,
but that my uniform was in pretty good condition for a
I did not care to admit that I had never been under
fire, at least where I could stand up and face it, and so
replied that we were not in the engagement but had
been marching all clay.
" Well," replied Cragin, " that 's just the same wid
THE GUN-BEARER. 139
Sherman — some 's fightin' and some's marchin', but it
Before a second opportunity occurred to question
me, Fred and I walked away and approached another
fire, where another group were listening to a soldier
describing his experience.
He was saying :
" We kept a mighty good line, though I never saw
men fight harder than those fellows did on the right.
Every time I looked in that direction I saw their ram-
rods twirling above their heads. They were regular
killers ; at work by the day ; just as if the boss was
standing over them. And then the charge ! Boys,
they put such things down in history." Then, after a
pause, during which his companions sat staring at the
burning logs, trying to realize the glory of it after the
fire had left their blood, he added : " But I do not be-
lieve it was ever intended. It looked to me, then, and
I think so now, that sombody lost his head when he
ordered both the first and second charge. The idea of
charging in a place like this, with the chances all in
favor of the other side. Sherman don't do business in
that way. I tell you, somebody blundered, and this is
not the first time, either. I hope there won't be any
more mistakes to-morrow."*
I fervently echoed this wish, and we went back to
our own camp. I had seen something of the day's
fight, had heard the booming of the guns and the rattle
of musketry, and there was an awful, fascinating real-
ism in these simple stories.
As I rolled myself up in my blankets on the ground
* "The orders were not to waste life in serious assault upon intrench-
ments, but the zeal of tlie troops and subordinate commanders turned the
intended skirmish into something very like a ranged battle, and the Con-
federate reports state that five separate aud regular assaults were made on
their lines."— Cox's Atlanta.
140 THE GUN-BEARER.
and tried to sleep, my brain was in a whirl. I seemed
to hear the heavy tramp of armies, the ringing cheers
of charging infantry, the roar of artillery, the shriek of
shell, the groans of wounded, dying men ; and then I
thought myself all that was left of an unsupported line
of skirmishers. The army to which I belonged had
fallen back ; the enemy were advancing ; my com-
panions had been picked off, one by one, until I stood
alone, a target for a thousand rifles. Unable to move,
and realizing I was dreaming, yet powerless to break
the spell, I stood and waited for the end that I knew
must come, when I was roused to consciousness by
Fred, who said :
" Seems to me you dropped to sleep mighty quick.
The colonel has come. I got it from Black Lige. He
says the colonel 's all broke up about the horses ; that
he tried to get 'em, and tried hard ; that he left Point
Burnside for that purpose ; but it's no go. He couldn't
make it win. Sherman 's sorry ; but the change in the
plans for the movement of the army makes it impossi-
ble. The boys are satisfied it's all straight, and don't
I was too tired, too sleepy, to exhibit much interest
in that almost forgotten subject, and dozed again. The
silence and darkness deepened, the camp-fires burned
low, and yet lower ; the forms that had been moving
about me in the gloom disappeared, one by one. I
listened a moment to the breeze as it freshened and
died away, moaning and sighing through the tree-tops,
and fell asleep.
Waking shortly after daylight, there came wafted to
me, on the soft, dewy air of the morning, the warbling
notes from some far-off bugle, sounding the reveille.
An instant later, another bugle repeated the call more
clearly. Another and yet another brazen throat re-
sponded, nearer and nearer ; and now, as the piping of
shrill-toned fifes and the heavy rolling of drums catch
up and interpret the theme, the frowning cliffs of Rocky
Face repeat and echo the medley of sounds until the
air vibrates in all directions with martial music.
The sputtering crack of rifle shots from along the
summit of the ridge and the thundering of artillery —
which had again opened on the enemy — now burst in
upon the chorus and, with emphatic accompaniment,
announced the day's work fairly begun.
The previous evening had given me a glimpse of
what one phase of my experience with Sherman's army
was to be. The sounds and scenes of this morning
presented the prospect to me from another point of
Everything was new, strange and interesting ; so
different from the quiet camp life from which we had
Our position commanded a fine view of the plain,
142 THE GUN-BEARER.
the open country to the south and of that section where
a part of our army was concealed in the thick
The camps before us were springing into life. Thou-
sands of smoke columns arose from plain and hill,
mounted, until, caught by some passing current of air,
they bent sidewise and floated out in waving pennants
to a vanishing point.
Thousands of soldier-cooks were preparing breakfast
for myriads of hungry soldiers.
Men were forming into companies and regiments and
brigades, and marching, some in one direction, some in
Batteries of artillery were hurrying off, sometimes
along the roads, then across the fields, to disappear
beneath the thatch of distant woods.
Cavalrymen passed and repassed, leading riderless
horses to and from the waters of Mill Creek.
Locomotive whistles announced the frequent arrival
of provision trains, from which supply wagons, moving
every whither, were distributing hard tack, pork, coffee
Occasionally a bit of color danced and waved in the
sunlight on the heights above us, as a signal-flag com-
municated a message to the officers below.
We caught, now and then, glimpses of our troops and
of the enemy, struggling away up among the trees and
rocks of the ridge, while over all thin patches of light-
blue smoke rose from the woods into the air and min-
gling with the white puffs from bursting shell drifted
away into the space beyond.
It was a scene and a morning not easily to be for-
It seemed hardly possible that all this stir and bustle
could be the result of one general's planning, or that
THE GUN-BEARER. 143
one general could successfully control the movements
of so many men ; but the boys, who knew, said :
" The old man can win more battles, keep the enemy
more continually on the retreat and lose fewer men
than any other general in the army."
" But how is it done ?" I asked Fred. " How does
Sherman manage to keep control of his army ? How
bring order out of this confusion ?"
" Well, you see, Sherman plans the campaign.
Through his engineers he gets the lay of the land
and knows how to take advantage of it. The generals
under Sherman are only his executives, who have care
of the details. They are told where to go and what
to do, and upon their careful obedience depends our
success. Generals are born, not made. Shoulder straps
never planned a campaign nor won a battle."
The arrival of the colonel was, naturally, the first
subject for discussion ; but this event, aside from the
letters he brought from headquarters, created no stir,
awoke no feeling of resentment. The boys seemed to
be satisfied that he had done all that man could do to
redeem the promise he had made, and some even went
so far as to say that the less we said about horses the
better. Even Jake, now we were at the front, was con-
tent without horses, and so expressed himself.
Breakfast eaten, tents and blankets rolled up and
guns carefully cleaned and made ready for use, we
awaited orders. While we were waiting, taking in the
surrounding scenery, " Black Lige " happened to pass,
and Jake hailed him with :
" Ho, Lige ! Has the colonel got his orders ?"
" Yes ; he 's got 'em fer sure. I done heered de cap'n
say dis mawnin' dat we 's a goine ter jine Scofield ter-
' ! Did he say where Schofield was, Lige ?" I asked.
144 THK GUN-BEARER.
" No, maws' Dan. He done say nuffin 'bout it 'cept
wut I tell yer."
" Fall in men, fall in," called the voice of our or-
" That 's the talk," said Jake. " We '11 get our share
now, and when we get a chance, we '11 give the Johnnies
the best we 've got in the shop."
In a few moments we were in line, facing the south
and quickly after, at the tap of the drum, amid rumble
and rattle on every hand, we marched along the plain
about two miles until near Rays Gap ; then, turning
east, crossed Mill Creek, and climbed to the crest of the
ridge, fully seven hundred feet above the base of the
What a climb that was ! Scarcely a breath of air
stirred in the woods ; the atmosphere was hot and
stifling, and the ascent both difficult and hazardous.
We were all in high spirits, however, notwithstanding
the heat, and it mattered little to us that the battle was
not far away.
Up the side of this natural fortification, which con-
tinually impressed us with a sense of its magnitude,
over the rocks, now to the left, turning and winding,
on, up and through a forest of stunted pines and a
tangled undergrowth that filled the narrow clefts and
crevices in this well named rocky ridge, we climbed,
tumbled, slipped, scrambled and forced our way until
late in the afternoon when we came to a halt near
some of the Ohio regiments of Schofield's Division.
What a country was spread out before us ! To the
west of the open plain below were to be seen only deep
valleys, densely wooded forests and the rugged chains
of rock which ribbed and intersected this region in
To the south the corrugated surfaces of Rocky Face
THE GUN-BEARER. 145
stretched away until it's identity was lost in a back-
ground of distant hills beyond.
Eastward the scene was of panoramic beauty.
Dalton lay below us, close to the railroad, and not
more than two miles distant.
Nature had done much to make Dalton defensible,
but added to it was the ingenuity of Southern engi-
neers. For miles around the town we could see a series
of ridges, which, with jutting spurs, stretched out in
every direction ; lower than Rocky Face, but much
more valuable to the enemy, on account of their near-
ness to the town and the ease with which they might
be occupied and converted into strong defensive out-
Creeks and rivers threaded the landscape, which was
dotted here and there with houses, while away to the
south and east we saw the blue summits of the hills that
The air was better on the ridge ; and while we rested
there, eating our dinner, and enjoying it, too, Kimball,
who had been quietly taking stock of our surroundings,
said, as if to himself :
" What a place for defense ! The whole army of the
North couldn't storm this ridge and capture it. See
the chances here for sharpshooters ! Why, they could
pick off skirmishers as easy as you 'd pick blackberries
from a well-filled vine, and not stand in fear of a
" 'Nd just look at the loose rock lyin* around here,"
interrupted Jake, who had been listening ; " 's almost
as good as ammunition itself."
" Sherman don't mean to give the enemy any such
advantage as this over him, I know," continued Kim-
ball. " He '11 drive him out of here, and he won't do it
in the way Johnston wants him to, either. After this
146 THE GUN-BEARER.
comes Dalton ; just look at it ! But that '11 go in the
same way as Rocky Face."
" That 's right," responded Jake ; " but, as one of
those Illinois men said last night, it 's going to take a
heap of marching to do it. Well, let it come ; I 'm
ready, and want to be moving, seeing and doing some-
thing. I reckon the colonel 's gone to report to Scho-
field, ain't he, sergeant ?" speaking to the orderly who
was standing near.
" Yes," replied the sergeant ; " and we'll lie here
until we hear from him."
Here was an opportunity to read my letters, of which
I had three — two from Mary and one from mother. To
be sure, I was occasionally interrupted by the booming
notes of artillery, the crash of bursting shell, the- crack
of rifles and the "zip "or "ping" of bullets as they
passed by ; but though all of these sounds were new to
me and caused me no little nervousness, my interest in
the letters never flagged, and I read them through to
Mother inclosed in her letter a pressing invitation
from Edith Miller, the deacon's daughter, to visit Way-
" Come to Waytown again," she said, "and come to stay. I
need your kindly advice so much in my trouble. Father died
shortly after you left, and mother died scarcely a month since,
and you will see that I am alone, with no one to advise me.
Won't you please come ? There are matters here of very great
importance to you, and you must come and see to them. I can-
not take ' no ' for an answer."
Of course, my mother wondered what it could all
mean, and referring to her reply, said she would have
accepted the invitation if it had not been for my ab-
sence, but that under the circumstances she could not,
for the present, think of it.
Mary's letters — ah, well, no language can describe
THE GUN-BEARER. 147
the comfort and encouragement I derived from these
outpourings of a loving heart. They were all that
could be hoped for from the pen of a true-hearted
woman, and were read and reread for days and weeks
afterward — the same old story, but always appealing,
The rest of the day was spent in listening to sounds
of the conflict still raging at Buzzard's Roost, watching
the movements of the troops below us, the plain being
gradually deserted, and chatting with some of the
Ohio boys. From this source of information we learned
that thus far the Twenty-third Corps had been used as
a flanking corps, and that Sherman's movements were
based on this part of his army as a pivot, swinging to
the right or left as occasion demanded.
" How long he '11 keep this thing up 's hard to say,"
said one of our informants, speculatively ; " but I allow
he 's goin' to keep at it, for we „'ve already heard we 're
goin' to git out o' this in the morning."
After supper, consisting of salt pork, hard tack and
cold water, for we were not permitted to build fires on
the Ridge, we put in the time as best we could, chat-
ting, observing the lights in Dalton as they flashed out
one by one in the darkness settling on the rapidly
fading landscape, and then curled up under our blan-
kets as comfortably as the rocky nature of the ground
would permit, and went to sleep.
I expected that the next day would certainly bring
me face to face with the enemy, but in this I was dis-
appointed, for when the day broke we were marched
back over about the same stony ground we had strug-
, gled over the day before.
The whole of the Twenty-third Corps was with us
this time, for to the right or left, as the openings in the
trees or between the hills permitted, we saw the whole
148 THE GUN-BEARER.
landscape was full of bluecoats, all marching in a direc-
tion parallel to our own. Away off to the south we
heard the roar of battle. Behind us, far to the rear, a
stray shot or two, perhaps, but nearer us only the usual
sounds of the march, the clatter of tinware at our belts,
the restless tap of a drum here and there, the profane
clamor of artillerymen struggling- to extricate a gun or
wagon from some muddy creek. If we were retreating
what were we retreating from ? There was not a gray-
coat to be seen, and no sounds that I called alarming
in our rear, and our movements, though somewhat
guarded, did not resemble what I imagined a retreat
must be. Nor did the talk of those about me give me
any suggestion. There were the usual growls at the
roughness of the way, but aside from that no one
seemed to care whither we were marched or what the
reason of the movement was.
When one sees hundreds of others doing the same
thing he is doing, and without a sign of anxiety as to
the result or of criticism as to the method pursued, it
soon becomes difficult to maintain even a small amount
of private worry.
Wednesday was spent in camp or in lines of battle.
We did not move much, and reports that the enemy
were advancing on us under cover of some woods at no
great distance from our lines, kept my nerves always at
a tension. Shortly after dinner we were called again
to the front, and it seemed, by the look of expec-
tation in our officers' eyes, that this time the graycoats
must be certainly advancing. We stood and waited,
hearing and seeing nothing.
Suddenly there was a great cheering, away off to the
left of the line ; other regiments near us took up the
" What is it ?" I asked, somewhat anxiously.
THE GUN-BEARER. i 149
" Look ! Look ! There 's Stoneman's cavalry. Hurrah,
hurrah !" cried Jake at my elbow, pointing to the left.
A body of horsemen were charging out of the woods
into the open ground.
It was an inspiring sight, and I swung my cap and
shouted with the rest : " Hurrah ! Hurrah !" On they
went, line after line coming into view, a dense mass
flying over the green earth like the black shadow of a
There were but two or three thousand of them, a
drop in the bucket in comparison with the hundred
thousand hid away in the miles of woods between us
and the place far away to the south where McPherson's
guns were booming. Yet it seemed as if nothing but
the cold hard rocks of mother earth, nothing of flesh
and blood could withstand that onward rush of men
and horses. They looked all that has ever been said of
them, daring, reckless, confident. There was an easy
swing and rhythm about their motion that almost set me
dancing. I gazed at them admiringly.
A wild yell pierced the air, sabers flashed in the sun-
light and I saw Wheeler's cavalry debouching swiftly
from the opposite woods.
Nearer and nearer they came together — these two
ponderous masses. My breath came in gasps with ex-
citement, in expectation of the conflict. I imagined
that when they came together I would hear a crash
like the crash of an avalanche when it reaches the
valley. I braced myself for the shock as if, when those
two masses met, a heavy weight would strike me also
in the chest. But when they had charged — to within a
rod of each other I should think — a shrill bugle sounded
the retreat, and the enemy turned and rode swiftly
"That was just a scare," said Kimball. " They only
150 THE GUN-BEARER.
wanted to find out whether we were in force or
I thought of the old saw, " A man might as well be
killed as be scared to death," but simply looked wise,
smiled and said nothing.
"A cavalry charge 's a grand sight," continued Kim-
ball, encouraged by my attention. A grand sight ! It 's
like a living ram, to batter down or scatter everything.
Cavalry like Stoneman's 's like a hurricane in a city of
paper houses. They 11 break up infantry every time,
and '11 silence a battery by hacking the cannoneers to
pieces. Why, a cavalryman on the dead run, 's these
fellows were just now, '11 split a man from head to
waist, with his saber, 's easy 's a butcher 'd split a
spring lamb !"
" Don't they use their Spencers ?" I asked.
" Neither rifles nor revolvers are any good to cavalry
in a charge. The saber 's the thing for the rush."
The enemy made no further demonstration, and we
held our position, unmolested, during the rest of the
day. At night a picket was set, and our regiment came
in for its share of duty.
Fred and I were assigned to the same post ; and
there, by a big tree, we stood and listened. That about
sums up the duty of a night picket. You stand by
some big tree or stump or rock, while all around you is
a darkness that almost may be felt. And how you do
listen ! How keenly sensitive are the ears, and how
vivid the imagination at such times ! You fancy some-
body is moving toward you ; the breaking of twigs and
rustling of leaves settle this to your satisfaction ; the
sound ceases, and the cold chills creep over you as you
think the cause of your alarm may be standing on the
other side of your tree, and if you but stretch your
arm around it you may touch him.
THE GUN-BEARER. 151
I realized that the Confederate Army was only a short
distance away, and, at times, strained my ears until it
seemed as if the nerves and muscles of my face would
crack with the tension in the effort to discover some
evidence of their nearness. But the stillness was un-
broken, with the exception, perhaps, of the piping of
frogs and the low, far-off rumbling sound of some
At daylight we were again on the move to the south-
west. This time no regiments marched in front with
us. Two days before we had swept round from east to
west like a long, blue tidal-wave, regardless of road or
broken ground ; to-day, a long, blue serpent-line of
men drew its sinuous folds. To the left of us, the
gloomy, unbroken wall of forest, hiding the ridge of
Rocky Face from us and us from the eyes of our
enemy along its crest ; to the right, a broken country ;
ahead, long lines of soldiers marching on ; behind us,
lines of soldiers coming after.
" Looks as if the whole army was on the move,"
said Jake. " There 11 be fun soon, and we '11 have a
chance to try these guns of ours."
" Don't be in a hurry, Jake. Our guns won't rust,"
said Kimball. " We '11 catch it soon enough. I 've had
all the square meals of that kind I want. I 'd rather
march than fight any day. It 's better to get tired than
it is to get killed, and a heap better to suffer with blis-
tered feet than to lose an arm or a leg."
" It 's skeery business," replied Jake ; " but we never
got killed yet, and we 've been under fire a good many
" Some of us have been mighty lucky ; but you can't
tell, you can't tell," said Kimball, as he gave his heavy
cartridge-box a hitch into a more comfortable position
and walked away.
152 THE GUN-BEARER.
We entered Snake Creek Gap and crowded on, some-
times in the stony road, sometimes over ' the shingle
beside the creek or along its sloping banks.
Overhead the interlacing branches of the trees on
either side of this narrow defile formed a thatch which
for long distances shrouded us in gloom. Occasionally
a break in the dense foliage let in the sunlight, aftd we
could see the wild and picturesque scenery surround-
We came through the gap at last and camped in flank
with McPherson's army before the outworks of Resaca.
We saw the light of rebel campfires reflected on the
clouds drifting over Rocky Face far to the north of us,
whence we had come, and we looked to our muskets —
at least I did — expecting sharp work on the morrow ;
but it did not come. The roar of McPherson's bat-
teries and the ceaseless fire of musketry from his line,
still snarling like an eager but wary watchdog before
the intrenchments of Resaca, were now in our ears.
We were not drawn into it, but were cautiously extend-
ing our lines and resting on our arms. That night
again we saw the firelight of our enemy still in its old
position to the north. But the next day a report spread
like wildfire along our line that Johnston had left Dal-
ton and was concentrating on our front. This was great
news. Our marching had countered them.
We saw the smoke of a burning house or two along
the railroad. We heard the shouts of our comrades of
the Fourth Corps driving the enemy toward us along
the ridge of Rocky Face and through Buzzard's Roost
Gap, and we perceived that the fire in our front was
much increased, betokening a stronger force there.
Johnston and his whole army were there.
It was the thirteenth of May. I had been a soldier
three months, and I had not fired a shot.
The Twenty-third Corps marched two and a half
miles, in a northeasterly direction, on the Rome and
Dalton Road; then left it, and, regardless of roads or
fences, pursued an easterly course straight across the
Shortly after leaving the road, we forded three or
four tributaries of Blue Spring Creek. There was no
time to stop and remove shoes and stockings at these
places ; it was simply walk in, regardless of water or its
depth, just as a horse or a mule would do. Fortunately,
the water was not more than half way up to my knees,
and all I had to do, on reaching the other side, was to
squeeze my trousers as dry as possible, and depend for
the rest upon the movement of my feet, which, when I
walked, worked up and down in my shoes like a pump-
plunger, throwing out water at every stroke.
Our line of march seemed to be so planned that
we passed no houses on this tramp, though we could
154 THE GUN-BEARER.
not have been far removed from them, as we frequently
saw fences surrounding lands under cultivation.
At Line Creek we did not fare so well, as the water
was quite deep in places, and the steep bank leading to
the hill on the opposite side made it difficult to continue
in a straight line ; but we forded the stream, and in
zigzag order, with the water in our shoes chugging
and crunching at every step as we ascended the hill
and pressed on.
We had heard more or less firing since daybreak ; but,
after leaving the wagon road, the sound became more
continuous, and rapidly increased in volume. When
we gained the crest of the hill, close to Line Creek, the
noise of battle grew more distinct, and we could with
ease distinguish the booming of artillery from the rattle
It was nearly noon when we descended to the valley
and came into line on the left of Thomas, facing Camp
Creek, which separated us from the strongly intrenched
hills occupied by the enemy north of Resaca.
To the right and left the rattle of musketry from our
skirmish lines, which were pressing the enemy toward
the creek, was continuous. From still farther to the
right and south, where McPherson was engaged, came
the deep-toned thunder of artillery ; in our immediate
front the silence was absolute. We knew the enemy
was there, however — perhaps felt it, rather than knew it.
Between us and the enemy there stretched a broad,
green valley down to the harmless creek, which rip-
pled peacefully along as if there were no such thing as
war. The sky was clear as crystal. The sun shone
brightly, as if to gladden our hearts and induce us to
abandon our wretched business. But the birds among
the trees near by flitted nervously from branch to
branch, discontented, fearful, silent.
THE GUN-BEARER. 155
I had hardly taken in the beauties of the scene when
an order was given for our deployment as a skirmish
line. It came unexpectedly, and, it seemed to me, was
given without the careful deliberation it merited, and
wholly regardless of whether we were ready or not.
I felt my face become pale and my strength suddenly
leave me. The least push, or, it seemed to me then,
breath of air, would have tumbled me headlong to the
I would, at that moment, have given all I had, or
ever expected to have, for a place of safety. The idea
of being ordered like that, to stand between two op-
posing armies. That any human being should have it
given into his power to say :
" You go to the front and die !"
I looked at my comrades for a sign that all was not
right. There seemed to be no spirit of concern or
question either in their faces or in their actions.
Fred, on my left, was walking with his gun at the
" trail," looking straight ahead. Jake, on my right,
and Kimball next to him, were doing the same thing ;
in fact, the whole line was steadily advancing.
It seemed to me that the silence before us was awful.
It did not matter that there was firing either to the
right or left ; my ears were closed to that, and both
eyes and ears were strained to catch a glimpse or hear
a sound of the enemy in front.
Of course, I was in position all this time ; spurred on
by pride, absence of will-power to do other than what
I was bid or what you will, I kept pace with the line as
At last a little break in the woods revealed the breast-
works of the enemy.
"Forward ! Double quick !" shouted a voice in our
156 THE GUN-BEARER.
I threw one glance behind me to see if the main line
They had not moved. Could it be that this order
was meant for us alone. It seemed to me the faces of
the men in our rear were cold, cruel and grim, and I
wondered if it was usual to order a line of men, separ-
ated so widely as we were, to charge upon an enemy
of unknown strength. It was unreasonable to expect
anything like success from such a movement.
Would the silence before us never be broken ? That
awful hush was wearing upon me ! I nervously
raised my gun, looked it over to make sure it was all
right, then again lowered it to a " trail," clinging tight-
ly to it all the while.
But look ! A puff of white smoke and a red blaze
suddenly sprang out from the trees beyond the creek.
Scarcely had I seen it, when a loud report reached
my ears and then from the same spot a dozen or more
fiery throats belched forth their wrath and passion.
I heard, for the first time in my life, the shrill whistle
made by flying shell, and as I ducked my head, now
this way, now that, the sharp, quick shots of musketry
followed and bullets went by my ears with a " zip, zip "
or rattled like hail on the ground around me, or drove
into the earth at my feet, throwing up pieces of dirt
into my face. It seemed as if we were rushing into the
very jaws of death.
The artillery were getting our range now, and burst-
ing shell were flinging their iron fragments far and
A sudden tug at the strap holding my canteen
caused me to look down. My canteen had been struck
on the side, just tearing its cloth covering. " Whew, that
was a close one !" I thought, for I did a vast amount of
thinking in that scrambling dash.
"fire at will!"— See Page 157.
THE GUN-BEARER. 157
" Forward, double quick ! "
But we were going then, to my mind, at breakneck
speed. What need for another order ? I was running
and trembling, when, suddenly, almost in our faces, a
blaze of fire and the whistling of bullets nearly robbed
me of what little strength remained. My heart seemed
to stand still, waiting for my body to be struck. For a
moment I didn't think I knew anything — not even my
own name, but I pulled down the visor to my cap and
bent my head forward as I ran, like one breasting a
" Steady, boys, steady !" shouted our captain. "Drive
'em into the creek."
The veterans set their teeth, grasped their guns more
firmly and sprang forward, I dreamily rushing onward
with the rest, without a definite thought save that of
danger and an enemy that must be forced to retreat.
"Fire at will !"
Aha ! With the first discharge of my gun fear van-
ished, and a proud feeling of ability to take care of
myself intoxicated me after I had fired some half-dozen
rounds, when I again looked to the right and left. Fred
and Jake and Kimball and Taylor and all the others
were there, not a man missing, all intent on the work
hefore them, loading and firing as they advanced.
Again and again, not in volleys, but as fast as guns
could be loaded and fired, the enemy's artillery from
the woods across the creek blazed and thundered, filling
the air with screaming, bursting shell.
But high above it all now rose a prolonged cheer
from the main line in our rear. Then the quick tread
of many feet encouraged us, for we knew that the army
was coming on. Cheer upon cheer, in which I joined
as lustily as any one, rolled like a wave along the line,
and as I took place in the front rank and touched
158 THE GUN-BEARER.
elbows with the veterans of that advancing line, a
thrill of enthusiasm shot through me which I shall
The transition from weakness and fear to excitement
and strength was brief but positive. I loaded and
fired and cheered, loaded and fired and yelled like a
madman, it seems to me, as I think of it now.
Whether I ever hit anybody I don't know, as the
smoke settled down upon us and we could only aim
low and trust to chance for results.
Several times in my haste I came near not with-
drawing my ramrod before firing, and shooting that
useful implement into the enemy's camp.
On, on, through a deadly cross-fire of shot and shell
that whistled and screeched and howled above us and
around us, striking trees, cutting through branches,
bounding along, plunging, ricocheting, tearing up the
ground and throwing clouds of loose earth over us, we
hurried to the finish.
Men were now falling about me but I only loaded
and fired the faster. Presently the artillery ceased fir-
ing, and almost at the same instant from out of the
woods in front flashed a red line of musketry.
Forward, we sprang, rushing at full speed, stumbling,
scrambling through briers and leaping over such ob-
stacles as lay in our path. The enemy turned and fled
into the creek, we pursuing close after them, firing as
we ran. Across the creek, waist deep with water, and
up the steep bank on the other side we followed, lessen-
ing the interval between the lines at every step.
At the top of the hill the enemy, gathering courage
from the presence of fresh troops behind intrenchments,
stopped long enough to fire another volley at us, then
retreated to other intrenchments still further to the
THE GUN-BEARER. 159
rear and left the outer line of defense in our posses-
And now, as the enemy's artillery from another point
directed their fire upon us, a new element of confusion
was added to the pandemonium of sounds about us. A
battery or a number of gunners from our own side had
come to our relief and began to blaze away at the
For awhile it seemed as if shot and shell met in the
air and fought for right of way, such a bellowing, burst-
ing, roaring, echoing sound throbbed and beat upon the
air. It did not last long, as the enemy soon retired to
other intrenchments still further to the rear.
We advanced again, occupied the second line of
works, strengthened the reverse side as much as possi-
ble, and waited in silence. There were few of us who
cared to talk much. I had just time enough to eat a
small piece of bacon and a couple of hard tack when
some one shouted :
" Look out, boys ! They 're going to try and take
this line back again ! They 're coming up the
This was followed by a rattle of musketry from the
enemy at the foot of the hill. They are coming in
huge, dust-covered masses, loading and firing as they
advance, without stop, determined to drive us out of
our position or die.
When they were within a hundred yards of us we
leveled our guns over the breastworks and let them
have it. They did not waver, though their lines were
broken and disordered, but came on faster and nearer.
Bullets were flying about my head with a nearness that
We were standing two or three deep, with just enough
space between to allow room for loading. The rear
1G0 THE O UN-BEARER.
lines were firing between and over the heads of the
men in front of them.
There was something maddening in the flashing and
explosion of the rear rank guns, their muzzles almost
on a line with our faces. The sharp report that was
continuously ringing in our ears ; the sulphurous odor
of burned powder, and the " zip, zip " of the enemy's
bullets above us, around us and between us — when they
did not strike — may fairly be said to have constituted
my baptism of fire.
In camp, each movement in the operation of loading
and firing was anticipated by an order. Now we were
loading and firing independently of each other without
word of command ; the man who loaded quickest firing
I went through the process of loading and firing
mechanically, and without giving any special thought
as to what I was about.
The noise in my ears was so deafening that I could
not tell whether my gun had been discharged or not,
and I did not even feel it kick, although my shoulder
was sore for days afterward.
My ammunition was fast disappearing. My cartridge-
box had been emptied long ago, and I was then using
cartridges from my haversack ; these, too, were nearly
gone, yet the enemy were coming on. Men are falling
in all directions. We saw them a moment advancing
through the smoke ; they disappear like specters and
others glide into their places ; yet always the same
blackened faces, flashing eyes, clenched teeth and grip-
ing hands. It is hard to see men fall like that, yet the
sickening work went on. But they could not long en-
dure our terrible fire, that had already told fearfully on
their ranks ; and, at last, they doubted, hesitated, then
turned and broke for the bottom of the hill, leaving
THE GUN-BEARER. lfil
their dead and wounded behind them, covering the
sides of the slope.
At this moment we were relieved by other troops
and marched to the rear, over the ground we had just
passed. Dead and wounded were scattered in all direc-
tions, and men were continually dropping out of line
to look at this one or that, and to offer such assistance
as was possible. While I was looking at the faces of
the different men we passed, I heard Kimball say :
" Hello ! There 's Eli Norcross, and he 's been hit,
too ; hit hard, I reckon. Perhaps we can help him ;"
saying which, Kimball, Fred and I started toward a
form lying on the ground, some distance away.
Reaching the spot where the wounded man lay, Kim-
ball kneeled beside him and said :
" Are you hurt, Eli ?"
" Where ?"
"Through the body. I 'm 'most gone. Can't last
long. Hand me my haversack."
Kimball reached for the haversack, which lay a short
distance away, and drew it toward him.
Open it, Kimball, and take out the things that are in
Kimball did as directed, and spread the contents of
the bag on the ground, where they could be easily seen.
" Kimball," said Eli, " stand the four photographs so
I can see them."
The pictures of his wife and three children were
placed so he could look at them. After a moment's
pause, during which the dying man gazed earnestly at
the pictures, he spoke, f alteringly, and with labored effort :
"Kimball, I want my wife — to have my watch — and
the — little money I 've got — in my pocket. I — I — ain't
got — much else — nothin' fer the — children, God bless
102 THE GUN-BEARER.
'em ! Give my writin'-kit ter my oldest girl. To Katie —
give my sewin'-gear. To my boy — my baby — what can
I send ter him ?"
After pondering a moment, he continued, huskily :
" Kimball, give me a drink from my canteen."
The canteen was produced, and placed to the parched
and whitening lips. After drinking, Eli said :
" Kimball, send the canteen, just as it is, to my boy.
Write to his mother and tell her that I drank from it
just before I died. Tell her — to explain to my boy —
when he gets old enough, that I was killed in defend-
ing the flag of my country. Tell her I want my son
to know all about the wrong done by the men who have
tried to ruin this country, and that, whenever he looks
at this battered old canteen, to remember that his
father drank from it just before he died on the battle-
field. Kimball, you take my blanket ; it 's better than
yours. My poncho — give — it — to — to — Hold the pict-
ures nearer, Kimball ; there, that's better. Ah, Kate —
we did not think, as you stood in the lane holding baby
in your arms, the day we parted, that I should never see
you again. By-by, baby ; by-by, darling."
And a smile hovered around the lips of the husband
and father, as he closed his eyes and passed peacefully
Taking the few things which had been intrusted to
his care Kimball arose, and together we left the spot,
hurrying on to our company, where we were loaded
down with a hundred rounds of ammunition.
While we were resting — waiting to be called into
action — the firing continued along the whole line, and
was kept up far into the night, when it gradually died
away, and finally ceased altogether.
At sundown the company was mustered into line and
the roll called.
THE GUN-BEARER. 163
" Alfred Abbot !" cried the orderly, repeating the first
name on the list.
" Alfred Abbot !" the sergeant called again, this time
f alteringly, as, lowering his book, he fixed his eyes upon
the ground ; for Abbot and the orderly were like
" Alfred Abbot was shot as we were crossing the val-
ley, and before we reached the creek," replied a trem-
bling voice to the right. " He was by my side when he
The sergeant coughed, as if to control his voice, raised
the book, and then called :
" Ezra Armstrong !"
" Here !"
" Thomas Bennett."
" Here !"
" Erastus Brown."
No response. The sergeant repeats the name, raises
his eyes from the book and looks inquiringly up and
down the line.
" Does any one know about Brown ?" he asks.
" We jumped into the creek together," replied Taylor,
" but I missed him before we got to the other side."
" John Butterworth !"
" Here !"
" Charles Carroll."
" Here !"
And so on down the list, the response " Here " was
given, without break, until the name of Eli Norcross
was reached. When this name was called Kimball
" Eli is dead, sergeant. He went down in the valley
yonder. Just as the order was given to charge. A
piece of shell hit him in the side."
" Poor Eli !" said Fred, who was standing- at my side.
" It was he who hesitated so long when we veteranized.
His family will miss him."
" Here, sergeant, all but the tip of my little finger,"
replied Norton holding up his left hand and showing
the bandage around that, member.
Altogether, we lost from our company, in missing
and killed, about a dozen men, and some half dozen
more that were disabled by reason of wounds. My
own messmates were all present, and had passed
through the fire, unharmed.
A cup of coffee, the first I had tasted since leaving
the camp at Mill Creek, a piece of bacon, toasted in the
fire, and a quantity of hard tack, for I was ravenously
hungry, constituted my bill of fare for supper, after
which I enjoyed a quiet smoke and then slept.
I tried to write to Mary that night, for I had much
to tell her. I got so far as to tell her that I had passed
through my first fire test unharmed when I caught my
hand making unintelligible lines on the paper and my-
self nodding over it. My eyes would not stay open. I
tore up the paper and rolled myself in my blanket.
The rugged bosom of Mother Earth was softer than
down to me that night and the occasional booming of
artillery a soothing lullaby.
Monday morning Sherman entered Resaca and an-
other town was scored to our credit.
From this time onward our movements to the south
were through a country more open, less broken up by
hills and valleys and much easier to travel over. The
excitement was so continuous that I soon became accus-
tomed to it, finding time to take interest in affairs
beyond my own neighborhood, and to watch, as much
as possible, the movements of our army.
We never saw a tenth part of our whole force at one
time ; rarely a battle in which any considerable num-
ber of men were engaged. But we did see any amount
of skirmishing and had our share in it — enough to
satisfy even Jake ; at least, we heard no grumbling
from him on this subject.
For the most part, after we left Cassville, we were
under fire night and day, and the feeling of fright at
the sound of the bullets changed to one of indifference.
I listened to their bodeful whistle with respectful atten-
tion, but not with so much anxiety and dread as at first.
While we were away off on the left, watching the
flank of Johnston's army and trying to turn it, we kept
ourselves well informed as to the movements of the
rest of the army.
Our information was always recent and very seldom
erroneous, though I am sure most of it originated in
166 THE GUN-BEARER.
the practiced judgment of my veteran comrades and
their ability to interpret the sounds of distant strife
rather than in definite news. We seldom had time for
visiting with other regiments. Word would come gal-
loping up from headquarters, somewhere away off to
the right, or be " ticked " out in spasmodic jerks on
the telegraph key, and before the sound of the hoof-
beats or the click of the instrument had died away
drums would be beating and a regiment or two, or per-
haps our whole corps, would have gathered up its
belongings and be on the move.
The boys, with Thomas at the center, had an easy
time of it comparatively. It was their business to push
the enemy back and to hammer away until he was
driven out of his stronghold. It was on the Army of
the Tennessee at the right and on us at the left that
the hard work fell, and in this hard work the Army of
the Ohio had more than its share. Day and night we
were on the move, marching, countermarching, crossing
creeks and rivers, sometimes on bridges, oftener in the
water, throwing up earthworks, fighting, skirmishing,
continually harassing and threatening the enemy's
A forced march is a horror to the best soldier that
ever carried a rifle. It means torture of mind and
body ; a dull aching of bones to the very marrow ; in-
tense weariness and pain, and complete prostration of
the physical powers. It means to fall asleep before
you touch the ground in an attempt to lie down. Ten
minutes' rest at such times is only an aggravation. It
is easier to keep moving than to again rise at the com-
mand, " Fall in, men !" and find yourself stiffer and
sorer than before — if that were possible ; but one thing
encourages us through it all — the fact that the enemy
were always retreating and that our pains and aches
THE GUN-BEARER. 167
had not been needless, and when an objective point
was once reached long rests were the rule rather than
the exception. But whenever we started, with a long
distance to cover and a clear road before us, we pressed
on and on, halting rarely, and then only for five or
ten minutes, just long enough to snatch a bite of
something to eat and to find out how tired we really
The country through which we passed was deserted
by its inhabitants ; in sonie places scarcely a family was
left, and the males, if there were any, were either too
young or too old to handle a musket or were prevented
from so doing by reason of sickness.
The slaves, also, were mostly too old to be of any
use ; the others had been run off to the south, where
they could be of service to the Confederates.
Over the hills which had been so stubbornly defended,
passing intrenchments and retrenchments, passing the
enemy's dead, lying just as they had fallen, down the
slope, out of the woods, to the plain we marched in a
southeasterly direction and toward the Connasauga.
Reaching the river, we followed down its right bank
to Fites Ferry, where we crossed. As the water was
more than waist deep at this point, and as there was no
bridge, the artillery was ferried over on flatboats ; we
were allowed to strip before crossing. A comical sight
it must have been to see us with clothes, haversacks,
ammunition and rifles rolled up in blankets and carried
above our heads. Shouts of laughter greeted the un-
lucky fellow who slipped and wet his bundle, and they
were not a few who fell. Whether the cool water and
the opportunity for a bath presented a temptation too
strong to be resisted or whether it was accidental, only
* " We marched and fought during the day and fortified under cover of
the night. This was characteristic of the Atlanta campaign." — Diary of
O. L. Overly, 16th Ey.
168 THE GUN-BEARER.
the ludicrous side of the situation was noticed, and a
spectator might have easily imagined us a lot of jolly
school-boys out for a frolic, instead of an army of
veteran soldiers in pursuit of a hostile force. But the
bath was refreshing and answered better than a
Dressed and once more in line, we moved on in high
spirits toward Field's Mill. At the Coosawatee River,
four miles from Field's Mill, we found the road block-
aded by Hooker's troops, who had preceded us. Here
we halted, ate our supper, spread our blankets and were
The next day, the 17th, was devoted to rest for us,
and bridge building for others. That bridge building
was a realized ideal in mechanics, which, to the con-
tractor in times of peace, would have seemed an impos-
sibility. From out of the woods in all directions, along
the river's bank, came soldiers, bearing timbers cut in
proper lengths, and all prepared to be placed in posi-
tion. While the work of 'preparation was going on in
the woods, the process of construction seemed like a
work of magic ; the trestle work rapidly reared its sub-
stantial height to the required level, and increased in
length, yards at a time. At ten o'clock that night,
when the bridge was finished, we marched over it and
headed for Big Springs, which we reached at three
o'clock next morning.
Here we found temporary barricades of rails and
logs, and were welcomed with volleys of musketry from
the enemy's skirmish line.
We speedily settled it in our minds that there would
be a battle at daylight, but when the day broke the
enemy had abandoned their position.
Early in the morning of the 18th we marched by way
of Cassville to Cartersville, skirmishing nearly all the
THE GUN-BEARER. 169
way with the enemy's rear guard, who were driven
back without serious loss.
At Cartersville there was some show of force, but the
enemy gracefully retired on the night of the 19th,
without offering serious opposition to our progress.
From this point a detachment of the Twenty-third
Corps, followed up the left bank of the Etowah to the
Etowah Iron Works and destroyed them on the 20th.
From Cartersville we crossed the Etowah River, at
Gillem's Bridge, and marched over the Alatoona road
toward Burnt Hickory. Stoneman's cavalry were in the
advance, skirmishing as they went. We were gener-
ally in sight of the enemy's intrenched lines, and
subjected at all times to more or less firing from skir-
mishers, yet we lost but few men from the whole corps.
At Burnt Hickory we rested for three days, and most
thoroughly enjoyed it, although at no time was the air
free from the sounds of battle or skirmish.
Here I was initiated into the mystery of baking
beans. Boiled beans or bean soup was a dish familiar
enough in camp, but we never had them served to lis
in any other way. The feast at this place was pro-
vided by Kimball, who had captured a couple of quarts
of white beans at Cartersville and shared his treasure
with Fred, Jake and myself, saying as he gave them
to us :
" Let 's hang on to these until we find a chance to
bake them, somewhere."
At Burnt Hickory, Kimball obtained from a deserted
cabin, an iron pot, which he jubilantly held aloft as he
came toward us after supper, remarking :
" I Ve got the thing we need, boys. We '11 have our
baked beans now, for sure ; and they '11 be all the
better by putting what we have together."
"That *s business," said Jake, and he at once began
170 THE GUN-BEARER.
to dig a hole with his bayonet using his hands to re-
move the loosened earth.
After the hole was made large enough to accom-
modate the pot, a fire was built over it and allowed to
burn out. The pot with its precious contents of beans,
water and pork and a little salt for seasoning was then
carefully rested on the earth at the bottom of the hole,
and the glowing coals filled in around it. A flat stone
then covered the pot and a fire was built on top of the
stone, spreading out so as to heat the earth about it.
"We are not to do guard duty to-night," said Kim-
ball ; " so we can take ' turn about ' watching the beans."
" Watching them ?" said I.
" Yes," said Jake. " There 're other people who like
beans, and they know when they 're cooked long enough,
as well as we do. Besides, you 've got to keep a little
fire agoin', or they won't be cooked enough."
That settled it with me. I could have watched all
night, if it had been necessary, for the sake of the beans;
but four of us made easy work of it, and when break-
fast time came, in the morning, the coals were brushed
away, the flat stone removed, and there was a sight
which would have delighted the eyes and the heart of
the most fastidious epicure in New England.
A pot of beans, cooked to perfection ; a piece of pork
on the top, with the rind brown and crisp. The water
had boiled away, leaving just enough to make them
juicy and appetizing. And then the odor from the
smoking mass as we ladled them out on our plates ! —
it makes me hungry, even now, to think of it. We had
abundance for ourselves, for Taylor and for the orderly,
who happened along as we were taking them out of the
Late in the afternoon of the 25th, we heard sharp
firing to the south, where there seemed to be a deter-
THE GUN-BEARER. 171
mined effort on the part of one army to advance, and
equally as obstinate a disposition displayed by the
other army to prevent the advancement. Which was
the attacking party we were unable to learn. We could
tell only by the firing, which crept nearer and nearer
until the lines in front were engaged, that the move-
ment was general.
" There 's something up, sure 's you live," said Jake.
" Just hear the artillery !"
" That 's all right," said Kimball, pointing westward.
" But just look at that for a sunset ! And look at those
clouds, will you !"
We turned and saw the sun, looking like a great drop
of blood, just ready to sink behind the western hills,
while to the south we saw heavy rolls and masses of
angry, inky clouds rising rapidly.
" We 'd better get ready for a thunder-storm," said
Fred. " It 's coming up fast, and a storm of that kind,
down here, means a drenching unless you 're housed."
" And mighty well housed, too," added Kimball.
While we were watching the sunset and the storm, as
it came sweeping across the sky, orders were received
to prepare for immediate departure. An hour later,
with arms at a " secure " and covered with our ponchos,
we fell into line and marched along the west side of
Pumpkin Vine Creek toward Owen's Mills.
Directly above us, and to the north, was a starry
space in the sky ; to the south rose the many-headed
crest of the stars, around the edge of which the light-
ning played continually, while to the east the night shut
in, black and dense.
Onward, mile after mile, we marched, with the boom
of artillery and the rattle of musketry behind us and
to the right of us ; on, through the darkness and deso-
lation, the way becoming more difficult at every step.
172 THE GUN-BEARER.
Now and then we caught a glimpse of flashing guns
and of exploding shell ; and as we were not far from
our intrenched lines an occasional flight of bullets
whistled around and above us.
The roar of battle was unceasing, but now was added
to it the distant growling of thunder, echoing solemnly
down and through the vast dome of night.
" It 's going to be an awful night for a march," said
Jake. " Look at the rain and wind in those clouds !"
Great masses of brass-colored clouds, led by vapory
monsters, were hurrying across the heavens toward us,
seemingly borne along without wind for the air was
hot and stifling. The flashing lightning threw a weird
distorted light upon the blackness, revealing for an
instant the dark line of our column in front and rear,
and the long series of rifle pits to our right, then dis-
appearing leaving the darkness more intense than be-
fore. On rolled the brass-colored clouds, and on, above
them, came the muttering storm.
" Hark, Dan !" said Fred. " Did you hear that ?"
"You mean the cheering !"
"Yes. Look, Dan, look quick !" said Fred, hurriedly,
as a continuous chain of lightning shot out from the
clouds and illumined the scene for miles around. I
looked and saw a body of men charging across a field
on our right ; just in front of them, separated by only
a short interval of space, was another body of men
running at full speed.
Immediately following this protracted flash of light-
ning came a peal of thunder so terrific that the roar of
artillery could not be heard. Flash followed flash,
crash succeeded crash, now from the heavens, then,
feebly, from the guns of the contending forces.
And now, with the wind which came tearing along,
filling the air with leaves and limbs of trees, the storm
THE GUN-BEARER. 173
broke upon us. Behind the wind swung in the curtain
of the rain, sparkling- in the flashing light like a heavy
shower of polished silver beads, and wrapping us so
closely in its density that we were unable to see any-
For a time the majesty of the storm was upon us, but
we stumbled and plodded along through pools of mud
and water, fearing more from the lightning which
flashed and twisted and writhed and hissed through
the air, driving into the ground right and left, than
from the fragments of bursting shell which, notwith-
standing the storm, the enemy still continued to throw
After the fury of the storm abated, though the rain
continued until near midnight, we left the road and
took to the fields, throwing down fences as we ad-
Our whole course was determined by the irregular
line of the enemy's intrenchments, along the front of
which we marched, trying to reach the end or flank and
At midnight we came upon the mule teams belong-
ing to Hooker's army and the Army of the Cumberland.
Passing these obstacles was slow work and vexatious
and delayed our progress for an hour or more.
At Brown's Mill we crossed the little Pumpkin Vine,
and an hour later came in on the right of Howard's
Fourth Corps, on the hills facing the Dallas and Ala-
toona road, with the Sixteenth Kentucky in the post of
Friday's sun rose bright and hot, and with it again
the spiteful sounds of battle up and down the line ; not
in volleys, as when charging troops are repulsed, but'
the isolated, irregular fire of skirmishers and sharp-
shooters and the boom of occasional cannons. But we
174 THE GUN-BEARER.
held our position quietly, with nothing to especially
interest us until in the afternoon troops * were massed
in our rear. From this they marched out along our
division line, crossed the Alatoona road and at length
stirred up a hornet's nest of rebels. They came back
again and passed out of sight to the northward behind
The noise they stirred up soon died away, but this
marching meant something. Soon we got news of it
in the tumult that arose far away to our left, where the
two armies quit worrying each other with skirmish
firing and sprang at each other's throats.
We advanced our line a little without opposition, and
did not see much of the sharp fighting that took place
beyond. But it was practically useless. We got no
real advantage and our loss was severe, so they said.
Our boys were attacking an intrenched line, and the
enemy hurt them sadly.
The next day and the next the enemy tried our plan
on the right of our line, and they were made to suffer
as they had made us. And every day the battle be-
came more general, until on the last day of May we
were included in the tempest.
Early in the day a sharper sputtering of rifles in our
front warned us of the coming storm, and then our
skirmishers came hurrying in ; after them, the gray
" Steady, men, steady !" said Captain Hartees, in a low,
He was on one knee at the foot of a tree ; his face was
set ; a naked sword was in his hand, and his black eyes,
just raised above the level of our head log, were flash-
ing up and down the slope in our front.
* Geoeral Woods's Division.
THE GUN-BEARER. 175
" Steady !" he kept muttering between his teeth.
" Steady ! Wait till you see the whites of their eyes ;
then give them h ! Steady !"
I felt that our time was coming.
" Aim !" There was a grunt, that expressed both dis-
content and satisfaction, from Jake, at my elbow, as we
leveled our muskets at the line of men.
It is strange what little things fix one's attention in
such instants of suspended breath. I saw our captain
crouching behind the tree stump, like a panther bal-
ancing himself for a spring. I saw Fred shrug his
shoulder, as though a strap was chafing him. I heard
Jake grunt, and saw one clean-cut, yellow face in the
advancing crowd, and — " Fire !" The yellow face was
hidden in the smoke. At it we went, hammer and
They tried to break the line of an Illinois regiment
at our right, but they did not succeed. We drove them
back at last, and they left their dead and wounded in
our hands. As they hurried away, one man stopped,
and, turning to a fallen comrade, lifted him and was
bearing him away. I sighted him, but Kimball stopped
my finger on the trigger. "A man like that deserves
better 'n to be shot in the back," he said ; and I woke
up feeling quite ashamed of myself ; for, to tell the
truth, I was still so green in this business that I didn't
know rightly what I was doing, and would have kept
on firing at any moving thing in range or out of it, for
that matter, until brought up with a short turn. And
one rebel that I know of was spared, for, though I did
not realize what I was doing, my muscles were iron, my
point-blank aim was sure and my musket carried true.
I am glad he got away, for he was a " white " man, as
my boy's slang phrase now puts it.
From this place we pushed on toward Burnt Church,
176 THE GUN-BEARER.
oftentimes in line of battle, slowly and surely forcing
the enemy back, for they contested stubbornly every
foot of ground we tried to cover.
Well do I remember our charge through Alatoma
Creek in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm, the
roar of heaven's artillery mingling with the boom of
guns in our face and the rain falling in torrents. But
we crossed the creek and drove the enemy up a densely
wooded slope, where the timber was so thick you
couldn't see the skirmish line back upon their reserve,
who opened on us a galling fire and sent us back to the
shelter of the timber along the creek. Here we forti-
fied, for we could go no farther, as the rain had swollen
the creek to an unfordable torrent.
" We 're in for it now," grumbled Jake, casting an
anxious glance back toward the angry river. "Our
support 's safe over yonder, and can't back us if they
" Looks as though we were at the mercy of the rebs,"
" Suppose they charge us ? Where 'd we be ?" asked
" I guess we 'd hold 'em an argument, but they
won't," drawled Kimball. " We '11 get a free bath,
that 's all. The Johnnies can't do us much harm from
behind their works, and they won't leave them to-
Kimball's idea of the situation proved to be correct,
as the enemy contented themselves with playing upon
us with their artillery and musketry, by which we
As we lay there that night, sleepless, in our intrench-
ments, we could hear the minie balls or the heavier
iron shot, as they went sputtering through the leaves
above us ; but more to be feared than minie ball or
THE GUN-BEARER. 177
shrapnel, were the shrill-whistling- shells, which came
hurtling through the air or pounding against the tree
trunks, that turned them from their course. Sometimes
they burst above our heads, showering their fragments
upon us. More frequently, however, they passed over
and wasted their fury among the trees in our rear.
June 3d the enemy withdrew from our immediate
front, falling to intrenchments parallel with those above
Picket's Mill, facing north, while we spread out all the
time, I suppose, for Johnston, at last, found his flank
turned ; and on the night of June 4th, pulled up his
tent pegs and fell back to a point between Lost and
Brush Mountains, some distance north of Kenesaw.
As soon as it was discovered that Johnston had aban-
doned his position, Sherman lost no time in securing
the railroad at Acworth. Our whole front was changed.
Up to this time our corps had been on the left of the
line ; but now, while we stood fast to our position, the
other corps were marched by us, until Thomas, with
the Army of the Cumberland following one of his own
corps, the 20th, that had been for a short time to our
left, and McPherson, with the Army of the Tennessee
following both, we were left in McPherson's old posi-
tion, on the extreme right.
It was a jolly time, full of good wit and good jokes
flying between us and our friends, as company after
company went marching past our position toward the
east. We did not see the whole army by any means, as
all did not travel by the same road ; but what we did
see gave me a better idea of the vast number of men
it had taken to bring us thus far. We were driving the
enemy back, and that made every face pleasant.
While we rested there Fred and I wrote home.
Much has been written concerning the Atlanta cam-
paign, and from a broader, more comprehensive point
of view than mine. Our company — our regiment, even —
was but a drop in the bucket, compared with the sum-
total of Sherman's great army. Though rumors flew
thick and fast along our line, so that we at the extreme
left knew what was going on perhaps twenty or thirty
miles to the right of us, yet, from the fact that so many
thousands of men were engaged and so little depended,
apparently, on the acts of a single regiment, those ele-
ments were wanting which were necessary to make it
seem a personal struggle.
To tell the story of our experiences, from New Hope
Church to the fall of Atlanta, would be but to repeat,
with slightly different scenic settings, the tale of the
skirmishes, flank movements and constant pushing for-
ward by the left, which I have already described. Of
these the reader would soon weary, and that which is
to come would seem to be only the ringing of another
change in the same line of experience.
THE GUN-BEARER. 179
Of the events to be described, little, if anything, has
ever been written. They occurred at a time when
every man was of the utmost importance ; when our
numbers were greatly reduced, and when the conditions
were the reverse of those we had just passed over, as
we were retreating before a vastly outnumbering foe.
Therefore, as the object of this story is more to give the
personal experiences of a soldier than to compile a
regimental history, I hurry over the weeks and months
preceding the fall of Atlanta, to take up the details of
our struggles with Hood in Central Tennessee.
The purpose of describing our experience thus far
will have been accomplished if the reader is enabled
thereby to see in what a school for soldiers we were.
On the move from morning till night, nay, even liable
to be roused from our sky-covered beds at midnight
to march through trackless woods, over rocky ridges,
through creeks and streams and mud and dust and
swamp, in rain or wind or scorching heat, often with-
out fire, and always under the enemy's guns.
Such was our service for months, with now and then
a sharp engagement, in which our number was greatly
reduced by killed and wounded.
We were well fed and hearty ; sickness seemed to
have vanished from us in that clear mountain air,
above all, we were full of courage. We felt that the
great mind of our general was directing all our move-
ments and we saw that he had made no mistakes.
I must not forget the grim smile of satisfaction
which spread over the composite face of the army when
we learned that Hood had succeeded Johnston, who
had so well managed his command as to win our re-
spect. Johnston had been giving us the hardest kind
of work, and it was with absolute satisfaction, there-
fore, that we heard of the change. Certainly Hood
180 THE GUN-BEARER.
could be no worse for us. Then, too, we heard that
Johnston's careful but safe policy was not the one to be
pursued by his successor ; that " now there would be
something done." All of which was very amusing, to
say the least, and provoked a smile of gratification. It
was right into our hand, and just what we wanted.
But somehow those fights never came off, and there
was no radical change of policy. We continued to push
and the enemy continued to retreat, just as before.
Wherever we planted our feet that ground was ours.
It would have taken legions to dislodge us.
We speedily learned the use of the ax and shovel.
As soon as we found the enemy holding a strong posi-
tion in front of us we set to work throwing up intrench-
ments. That this work was almost always performed
under fire did not matter. The ax was swung just as
steadily, and pick and shovel were just as unceasingly
handled until the work was complete.
Our breastworks usually consisted of a continuous
trench, about two or three feet deep. The earth was
thrown forward and sloped so as to give the greatest
height next the trench. Logs were frequently placed
along the edge of the trench as we began to dig ; these
logs formed a sill. Cross timbers were then laid on
these sills and another line of logs parallel with and
above the first line were laid on the binders. The ex-
cavated earth was then thrown forward of and banked
against the logs, and the work continued until the top
log was about breast high.
In front of this intrenchment small trees were laid
together, with the branches toward the enemy. The
small limbs were trimmed away and the larger limbs
sharpened, so that thousands of wooden points were
presented — an obstacle through which the enemy must
pass in order to reach us.
THE GUN-BEARER. 181
Behind a fortification like this one feels compara-
tively safe ; before it, however, the case is different, as
any soldier of experience can testify. Many a time
have I seen some unlucky graycoated soldier caught by
the sharp-pointed abatis and shot before he could ex-
In a short time after the enemy disappeared from
before our breastworks, perhaps within an hour, we left
our position and advanced to a new one, always with
the same round of work and excitement.
This constant spreading out and building intrench-
ments, together with the fact that we were never
attacked with our own numbers, never had a chance at
the enemy except when we found them in superior
force or behind strong intrenchments, so worked upon
us that we were all " spoiling for a fight."
If we could only get a chance at the enemy in the
open ground. But the country around New Hope
Church, Kenesaw Mountain and Alatoona was so
broken into hills and irregular ridges and ravines
and valleys that it was impossible to get the vantage
ground we longed for.
However strong the intrenchments of the enemy
might be, we could find high places enough in their
immediate vicinity from which to make an attack,
and sometimes to overlook and command their posi-
tions, but that was all. Then, too, the thick cover of
the forests so completely veiled our movements that
we were frequently enabled to get into the rear of the
enemy and make the attack from that side. But Hood,
whenever he found there was a possibility of his being
cut off from Atlanta, rapidly abandoned his positions
and fell back, and the actual contact, the pitched battle,
This round of duty became more or less monotonous
182 THE GUN-BEARER.
as the days grew into weeks, and the weeks into months.
Of course, our talk of narrow escapes, on picket or in
the skirmish, was often relieved by some extraordinary
event, which gave variety to our after battle talk ; but
for the most part, as we were having things very much
our own way, we gave but little thought to passing
While we were at the battle around Pine Mountain
an incident occurred to which many of us owed our lives.
Early in the morning of the 13th of June we were
advanced as skirmishers up the side of the mountain,
and in front of the line of battle formed by our army.
The skirmish line was well extended, the men being
separated from each other by a distance of perhaps
Our movements were in plain sight of the enemy, and
a continual popping was heard from their sharpshoot-
ers' pits, while over our heads whirred and screamed
the shell thrown at the line in our rear.
Up the hill we went, from tree to tree, from stump to
stump, and from rock to rock, one eye on the line of
rifle-pits, in front and above us ; the other eye on our
own line, the next stopping place, or on the ground
over which we were travelling.
There was a quality of excitement in this running and
jumping, and darting from cover to cover — daring, chal-
lenging the markmanship of sharpshooters — that pro-
voked a spirit of recklessness which increased with every
successful advance we made. I appreciated the pro-
tection of a big tree trunk, or rock, and cannot describe
the combined feelings of confidence and doubt which
possessed me as I stood for an instant in a place of
comparative safety selecting my next goal, and then
took the plunge from security into danger, not know-
ing but I should fall by the way.
THE GUN-BEARER. 183
My interest in this method of advance so absorbed
me, that I took little note of anything else, until Fred
" Keep your eye on the line, Dan ! Don't get too far
ahead of it !"
It was hard for the individual to regulate his motions
by the movement of the line, as the chances for success
seemed to be lessened by being thus handicapped.
Sometimes the firing in my immediate front was so
heavy that I waited an instant before starting.
To be sure, we bad now been under fire for a month,
but somehow there had never before appeared to be so
much danger. Heretofore, we had been screened by
dense woods and a heavy undergrowth, and so, with
one exception, had never been brought so clearly face
to face with what we had to encounter. In previous
engagements we had touched elbows, and had felt the
thrill and encouragement of companionship. Now we
were as individuals, a mark for sharpshooters, toward
whose pits we were pressing on and on.
A small house stood almost in our path as we ad-
vanced up the slope. There was little or no protection
between that point and the first line of the enemy's
intrenchments. A good number of our men were
shaping their course to get behind that ; but Captain
Hartees, noting the movement, shouted :
" Keep your distances, men ; and whatever you do
keep away from that house !"
Pressing on, we turned farther to the left, avoiding
the house. Company A, however, determined to take
advantage of the shelter.
" Keep away from that house," I heard Hartees shout
to the captain of Company A, but no attention was
paid to the warning.
Up, up we went, until we were close upon the enemy's
184 THE GUN-BEARER.
works. Here every man, behind the best shelter he
could find, halted for breath. I turned for a look at
the main line and when I saw, perhaps a hundred
yards below us, those solid ranks of men who were
used to this sort of thing, who had made war and battle
a business for the last three years, when I saw those
men moving hurriedly yet steadily forward, a feeling
of security came over me that whistling bullets and
shrieking shell could not dissipate.
I looked over our skirmish line to the right and left ;
every man was at his post, eager, expectant, waiting for
the word to go. I saw besides that we were in direct
line with the house and that Company A had huddled
in behind it.
We were waiting for breath and the word to charge
upon this outer work in front. The enemy were in
good position and would make it warm for us. There
was no doubt of that. We might succeed in getting
force enough into their works to drive them out, but if
we didn't — what ? It would be a hand-to-hand fight —
and if it should come to that —
" Forward !" yelled the captain, and as we sprang
out with the order to advance, the guns of the enemy
were opened furiously upon us.
"Quick, my men !" shouted Hartees, who was in ad-
vance of us. " Now 's your chance !"
With a sort of scared hurrah which was caught up
and echoed by the line behind us, we broke for the
works, passed the rifle pits, with the sharpshooters still
in them, and into the line of intrenchments, where we
took a few prisoners. Why the force opposing us was
not larger was quickly explained by one of the cap-
tured men, who said to Hartees :
" Captain, nobody here. They 've gone 'nd are tryin'
ter lead yer on. Yer 'd better not try 'nd go any furder
THE GUN-BEARER. 185
ter-day. I 'm a prisoner now, 'nd it don't make no dif-
ference ter me what I says, but we Ve got a right smart
work back o' this ; been at it fer a month. 'F yer try
it on ther men '11 git cut up purty bad 'nd the rest '11
Captain Hartees sent the man to the general, and
while awaiting developments we lay down under cover
on the reverse side of the works we had captured, safe
from the action of the artillery beyond.
Looking backward over the ground we had just
passed we saw in the prostrate forms, lying just as they
had fallen, the wretched work made by the enemy's
guns. We also saw why it was that we were ordered
to keep away from the house. The fire of the artillery,
at the moment of our advance, had been concentrated
on this house and had riddled it, the enemy knowing
that men would naturally seek shelter behind it.
The result was disastrous to Company A, and many
were killed and wounded with shot and shell and flying
splinters, while we escaped almost without losing a
The works we captured were of great strength, built
of logs and stone and covered with loose earth.
From the time we were within twenty miles of At-
lanta we were kept constantly informed of the cruelties
practiced on our men who were prisoners at Anderson-
ville — a place about one hundred miles from our camp.
Every day or two one or more escaped prisoners
would be picked up by some portion of Sherman's
army, and the story of their sufferings passed from
camp to camp. There was one story that came home
One day we had settled into position at the siege of
Atlanta. Kimball, who had been out with a squad from
Company I, brought back with him a poor fellow who
had escaped from Andersonville.
" I found him in the brush, asleep," said Kimball,
" and I thought he was dead at first."
To describe the half-crazed starving stranger, and do
justice to the appearance he presented, would be to fill
the page with sickening details ; suffice it to say, that
soap and water were vigorously applied ; his tangled,
matted hair and beard were trimmed ; his clothes were
all removed, thrown into the fire, and he was dressed in
another outfit, worn and old to be sure, but clean, and
contributed by the boys.
THE GUN-BEARER. 187
After this he devoured all we dared give him, and
slept by the fire during- the rest of the day. At sun-
down, he awoke apparently much refreshed, and we
placed before him a piece of broiled beef, a cup of
coffee and a half dozen hard tack. And, while sitting
with his back against a tree, still eating, he told the
story of his imprisonment and his suffering ; and a
feverish glow arose to his pallid cheeks, and his eye
glittered with a wild, demented light, as he talked.
" Boys, " he said, as we gathered around him to eat
our own supper, " you want to know how they treated
us down there ?" lifting his bony finger in the direction
of Anderson ville. " Look at me. I 'm the kind of work
they turn out. A few months ago, and I was the equal
of the best of you. And now — "
His eyes filled with tears, and his voice grew husky,
as he continued, tremblingly :
" Boys, it unmans me to think of sitting here, eating
and drinking, while thousands of our poor fellows over
there have nothing fit to eat ; not a drop of pure water
to drink ; not even a bone to gnaw ; nothing but a little
measure of thin ham broth every day ; hundreds dying
of starvation, and hundreds going mad every day."
He carefully set down the dipper of weak coffee from
which he had been drinking. His head sank on his
breast, and he was silent for a moment, while great
drops of sweat rolled down his face. But we waited
patiently, in full sympathy with his emotion, and in
time the story was resumed.
" What is it like ? It is a pen ; a slaughter-house
yard ; an open field surrounded by a high log fence,
perhaps a quarter of a mile long each way. Into this
place last June twenty-six thousand men were crowded.
'T is true ; the fiends themselves said so. Hot ? Not a
breath of wind sifted through the pine forest outside
188 THE GUN-BEARER.
the tall stockade. All night as well as throughout the
day the heat was intense — something we never have
north. The brook which flowed through the pen was
filthy with the offal from the rebel camp and cook-
houses before it reached us ; but we had to drink it ;
't was all there was."
" What did they feed you on ?" asked Kimball.
" Feed ? A bit of moldy bacon and musty meal.
That 's what they gave us. 'Twas just enough to keep
us alive to suffer — no more. Our strength soon failed,
and our hope, too. Our clothes, what we had, were in
tatters or had been torn up for bandages, and we were
covered with vermin from head to foot. Still the rebs
were afraid of us, weak and helpless as we were, for
they shot us down like dogs if we dared cross the dead-
line near the stockade.
" And then the new comers. Every morning brought
them, sometimes by the hundreds, and yet the pen
never grew any fatter. There were as many dead
carted away next day. Stand in any part of that place
to look about you, the same scenes met your eye ;
groups of men sitting or standing and looking toward
something in the center ; men walking or crawling
between these groups ; everybody dirty, ragged and
starving. No sound of voices, except in oaths or yells
of the mad or in the groans of the dying. Conversa-
tion, such as there was, was carried on in low tones or
in a whisper. It would break your heart to look in
there. Men, as well as I, watched by the sick ; while
those who were only able to move watched by the
" Hard sights those. They would turn your hair
white as mine is, to see all that misery and cruelty."
" What about the wounded ?" I asked, after the
stranger had rested for a time,
THE GUN-BEARER. 189
"The wounded were treated like the rest. They
could get no attendance. The surgeons never came to
our relief. Hundreds of men were lying about that
lot, only a quarter-mile square, dying of gangrene and
mortification, without relief, except what we well ones
could give them. We, who had nothing ourselves, not
even shirts with which to make bandages, and no water
anywhere, except what we drank, and that was not fit
to wash a wound with.
" I remember one poor fellow — 't was just after I was
thrown into the pen that I met him. Such sights were
new to me then, and I could not look at them calmly.
He was a smart young fellow, good looking, or had
been, and was well educated. Anybody could have
seen that. He had a nice home in Kentucky, and he
used to tell us about it, that is before he lost his head.
He went to the war at the first boom of cannon, like
the rest of us, and they caught him early in the game.
" At that time the rebs didn't have so many prisoners,
and what they did have fared pretty well. Then this
young fellow was strong and healthy ; but when more
men came and were crowded into the same inclosure,
things got rapidly worse, till he thought he couldn't
stand it any longer ; then he made up his mind to
escape, and he did.
" He only got as far as northern Tennessee, when he
was captured by a band of guerrillas. They wouldn't
have got him, but they first wounded him in the knee,
and he couldn't get away. He was sent back to the
pen and thrown in with others, and there I found him,
lying on the ground, without shelter, without food,
without medicine and fast going into the fever.
M For days we watched beside him, two or three
others and myself, bringing him dirty water, moldy
bacon and musty meal — queer food, for a dying man—'
190 THE GUN-BEAREU.
and standing up that he might have the benefit of our
spare shadows when the sun was hottest.
" I tell you boys, 't was hard. I raved and swore and
begged the guard to send somebody, to do something ;
but they wouldn't listen. 'T was no use ; but I was
new to the place and didn't know men could be so in-
" The night following the second day after I found
him — I think it was the second day — it was sweltering
hot and the air was terrible. It seemed to settle down
upon us like an invisible blanket, about to smother us
out of misery. Is it any wonder that men went mad ?
To lie there on such nights and see the moon rise
bright and full over the tops of the dark, motionless
pines ! Many a poor fellow stood as I did, watching
the great shining ball roll higher and higher, and
groaned in his misery. It seemed as if I could feel the
sweet, cool breezes of the night, away off among the
hills where that moon was shining ; see the soft mist
steal up from the brooks and rivers, and — let me see —
where was I ? It was the second night, and after the
sun had been down about two hours I went for some
" When I came back there were half a dozen men
squatting around my young friend. They motioned
me to stop as I came up. I looked at the face of the
dying man. The moonlight was shining in his eyes
and they glistened like diamonds. He had caught sight
of me and called me in a loud whisper, seeming to take
me for his brother :
" ' Look, Fred, look ! See ! See !' "
Fred left my side at the fire and drew closer, so that
not a syllable of the stranger's weak voice should
escape him. The stranger continued :
" What he saw we did not know. Most likely 't was
THE GUN-BEARER. 191
home, poor boy ; but death came and took him. The
next day he was carted off among the usual morning
load of those that went out feet foremost."
The stranger ceased, and a silence which we could
almost feel fell upon us. I looked around me. The
stranger was leaning forward, his face covered with his
hands, his elbows resting on his sharp, pointed knees.
He was exhausted with his story.
Our fire had mostly burned out, but it still gave
light enough for me to see, behind the circle of our own
mess, seated on the ground or standing, bending for-
ward in strained attitudes, a deep circle of men from
other messes, who had, unperceived, come up to listen.
Fred, who was half kneeling beside the stranger,
watched him earnestly, as if waiting for him to speak
again. At last he said, in a husky whisper :
" What was his name ?"
"Charles Nichols," replied the stranger. "He told
me he had a brother in a Ken — "
But Fred waited to hear no more. He arose and
hurried away into the darkness of the woods, whither I
Fred was a surer shot with his rifle after that.
When Atlanta fell into our hands, in August, there
was a work of reorganization to be done. This great
manufacturing center of the South must become a
military post and nothing more. As a means to this
end, all the civil inhabitants were forced to leave ; they
could go South or North as best suited them, but go
The majority, clinging to the Confederate cause, went
South, taking with them, in long wagon trains, all their
belongings. In a short time there was not a family
left in Atlanta.
The streets were filled with marching troops and
rumbling wagon trains. The largest buildings groaned
under the weight of provisions stored there. The post-
office was opened and run by soldier clerks. Bakeries,
blacksmith, shops, machine and carpenter shops, oper-
ated by soldier mechanics, were running night and day,
and the city at once became a workshop, in which the
wants of Sherman's army were promptly and satisfac-
Meanwhile we were resting on our arms at Decatur,
in Northern Alabama, and in the midst of plenty.
In the second half of September rumors of Confeder-
ate activity spread through our camp. We learned
THE GUN-BEARER. 193
that Hood had met and conferred with Jefferson Davis
at Palmetto, and that Forrest, the Confederate cavalry-
leader, was disturbing our friends in east Tennessee
Soon it became apparent that an attempt would be
made to break up the railroad, which was our line of
communication with the north. The whole army was
immediately in motion, and leaving the Twentieth
Corps as a guard to Atlanta, we started on the back
track to Marietta.
When in the neighborhood of Kenesaw, we heard
sounds of heavy firing away to the north in the direc-
tion of Alatoona, a railroad point of the utmost im-
portance to keep in our possession. If the enemy
captured this place our line of communication would
not only be broken but a million rations, which were
stored there, would also be lost.
At Kenesaw, our corps branched off, marching along
the Burnt Hickory turnpike to the west, burning bushes
and hayricks as we went, to show Sherman, who was
watching from the side of Kenesaw, what progress we
We did not meet the enemy, and to us it seemed that
the movement had been of little use, as the next day
we learned that Alatoona was perfectly safe. Hood
had threatened Rome, then Resaca, and we followed
him closely. From Resaca we marched southwest
along the Coosa River, reconnoitering and foraging
and on the 20th or 21st of October pitched our camp
near Cedar Bluffs.
Hood had departed from the railroad, and we next
heard of him before Decatur and still later that he was
concentrating his forces near Florence, also in Alabama,
on the north bank of the Tennessee River.
Sherman's army was scattered all the way from
Chattanooga, which General Thomas held, down the
194 THE GUN-BEARER.
railroad to Atlanta. Every exposed point was fortified
with blockhouses or redoubts and strongly garrisoned.
Hood was not our equal in strength and showed no
disposition to attack us, but was quietly concentrating
and organizing at Florence. Just what his purpose
was, we did not know, but it was rumored that he had
in view an advance into Eastern Tennessee.
We, in the heart of Georgia, with one hand on the
the main artery of the South, knowing that Hood was
not strong enough to drive us out, felt that his object
was to entice us away. If he succeeded and lured us
back to Tennessee our toil for the summer was thrown
away. What would grow out of the situation was a
As a rule, soldiers, especially veterans, if they are
well-fed and officered by men whom they respect,
rarely bother their heads about plans for the future.
The only time when they departed from this rule, to
any extent, was at this crisis, when Sherman himself
seemed in doubt. At this time the possibilities of and
projects for the future were being thoroughly can-
By the ist of November Sherman had reached a
determination in regard to the Twenty-third Corps, at
least. The Fourth Corps [Stanley's], 15,000 men, had
been sent to reinforce Thomas, at Nashville. On the
31st of October we, the Twenty-third Corps, under
Schofield, 12,000 men, were ordered in the same direc-
tion. At Resaca, Cooper's division halted ; but Cox's
division pushed on.
We entered again into the outlying spurs and well-
constructed earth-works of Dalton, and, halting near the
railroad, waited for transportation, northward, through
Buzzard's Roost Gap, to Nashville.
There was hardly a moment of the day or night
THE GUN-BEARER. 195
when we did not hear the "puff-puff " of locomotives
drawing heavily loaded trains through the town or the
shrill whistle of others dashing through the Gap to the
north and around the curves and spurs of Rocky Face
Sherman was sending back all his stores in Atlanta,
all his sick, wounded and disabled and all his baggage.
There was life enough along the railroad in these hur-
rying days, when endless trains went rattling and slam-
ming by, headed for the North, trailing behind them
banners of smoke and steam ; and when trains return-
ing from the North brought recruits, ammunition and
returning furloughed men.
While waiting, we often went to the road to watch
this constant flowing stream of war. And when a train
of wounded men stopped near us we offered what
assistance we could. Many a sad sight we saw. In
box-cars, half full of straw or brush, lay sick and
wounded, some with arms or legs or heads tied up,
pale and sunken faces distorted with pain. Here and
there lay one raving with fever. There were always
water to be brought and little things to be done, which
were works of mercy, and which we could do well
enough to assist the tired, overworked surgeons and
And what a change was there when, perhaps, the
same train returned with recruits and furloughed men.
The open doors of the box-cars would be filled with
eager faces of green recruits, sturdy but inexperienced,
looking far away before them, as if they expected to
see the surrounding hills sparkling with fire.
On the 3d or 4th of November a train ran in bound
north, bearing soldiers looking hale and hearty. They
were Cooper's division of our corps, who had taken the
cars at Resaca. It was four days after they disappeared
196 THE GUN-BEARER.
through the Gap before we procured transportation
and followed them, through Buzzard's Roost and Ring-
gold, travelling over the old ground.
As we rattled and jolted slowly northward, it seemed
to us that the war was drawing to a close. We had
read of the Confederate army penned in around Peters-
burg, and we knew that the authorities at Richmond
would not permit Atlanta to fall into our hands with-
out sending assistance, if assistance could be spared.
We read, too, of Sheridan flying up and down the
valley of the Shenandoah. The stories of his exploits
reminded us of our Fitzpatrick, and we enjoyed them.
Mobile had fallen. No troops on the other side of
the Mississippi were available to the enemy. Their
forts on the sea-coast had also been mostly taken.
Fort Fisher alone was hostile.
We had left General Sherman behind us, making
preparations for a grand undertaking, which we knew
would not be long delayed. He was going to the sea,
If he succeeded — and not a man among us doubted it —
a broad road of ruin would be laid from border to
border, directly through the heart of the would-be
Southern nation. What could there be left for the Con-
federacy ? The stars and bars were floating now over a
disheartened but desperate country — a nation whose
actual possessions were rapidly melting away — a nation
on paper only.
In due time we were landed in Pulaski, Tennessee.
With us there were Stanley's Fourth Corps. To the
south of us our cavalry, under Hatch, Croxton and'
Capron, was scouring the country and watching Hood,
who was still in Florence, organizing and preparing.
Strickland's brigade of our division of the Twenty-
third Corps was in camp at Columbia, a town behind
us, on the road to Nashville, where General Thomas
was drilling recruits. There, too, was Wilson's dis-
mounted cavalry [10,000 men], and thither General A
J. Smith was hastening from Missouri, with perhaps
Hood, meanwhile, showed no decided signs of mov-
ing. He had, no doubt, intended to be on the march
before, but all his preparations were delayed by the
wretched condition of the single track railroad over
which his provisions and stores had to be transported,
and by the state of the country, which was softened by
rains and flooded by swollen rivers.
Sherman had, at last, gone south and east, without a
foe in his path. Hood, with fifty thousand men, had
left Alabama, was slowly working his way north, aim-
ing toward Pulaski and, just now, was making demon-
strations on Lawrenceburg and Waynesboro, in middle
Tennessee. We, perhaps ten thousand strong, were
expected, so it afterward appeared, to oppose this ad-
vancement, and give General Thomas an opportunity
to still further recruit and increase his army at Nash-
The storms, which had delayed Hood for so long a
time, were still raging ; and, while they had been for-
tunate obstacles to his movements, they had also proved
equally discouraging to us.
A shower, or even a rainy day, now and then, was
only a disagreeable incident, common to a soldier's life,
and to be expected ; but these cold, continuous storms
of rain, sleet, snow, hail and wind were a lasting misery
and very demoralizing.
If the weather had been all we had to contend with,
however, we might have endured our hardships much
better than we did, but we were sadly in need of cloth-
ing. Mine was worn and thin. The skirts of my over-
THE GUN-BEARER. 199
coat had been burned in a dozen places by coming
too near the fire. A goodly number of us, also, were
without blankets. Many a night, in stormy weather,
we went into camp, wet and muddy, and without fire or
blankets passed the night in sleepless misery.
When we were at a safe distance from the enemy far
enough away to indulge in a fire, I have stood half the
night smoking my pipe, scorching, burning and drying
my clothes, trying to warm myself and, at last, lie
down on a pile of green boughs, with no other covering
than a rubber blanket, and shivered myself to sleep.
Rations, too, were not always plenty, and while, as
yet, we had not been compelled to do without, we were
far from being well fed, and sometimes had to eke out
our supply of food with such forage as we could pick
up from the already well plundered farmers along the
The few families, who yet remained in Pulaski, had
endured the hardships of war with a half-starved,
heroic patience, born of necessity. This town had
alternately been visited and robbed by both Union and
Confederate soldiers, so that there were at best only
small pickings for us ; but though the people were
poor, and had scarcely provisions enough for them-
selves, when any of our boys called on them for some-
thing to eat, they were always given such as the house
afforded, and as much as could be spared.
Women who had hitherto been waited upon were
compelled to learn the art of serving themselves, and
much of the bitterness reported of these people in the
early part of the war had disappeared ; their pride had
been humbled, and in its place had sprung up a more
respectful, if not a kindlier feeling toward the Union
We were well informed as to the movements of the
200 THE GUN-BEARER.
enemy, our information coming-, for the most part, from
scouts, deserters from Hood's army — who occasionally
came into our lines — or from cavalrymen, who were
continually scouring the woods in front of us.
The most positive knowledge concerning Hood's
movements that we were able to get was obtained
from an old negro, who came into our lines on the
night of the 21st of November.
Fred and Jake and I were on picket, and stationed
by a clump of bushes, near the Lawrenceburg Road.
The hour was hardly later than ten, when our attention
was attracted by a low, rumbling noise, away up the
road, coming from the direction of the enemy.
The sound became louder and more distinct as it
approached us. At times we fancied we heard voices.
Was it possible the enemy were so near ? And were they
moving toward us in such force as to set aside all
thought of a surprise ? were questions we asked our-
We strained our ears to listen more carefully before
sounding an alarm, and finally convinced ourselves that
the noise proceeded from a rickety wagon. Later we
were satisfied there was but one voice, and shortly after
our fears were allayed by seeing, in the dim starlight, a
man standing in a wagon, belaboring a mule with a
stick, and calling out, at the top of his voice :
"Git along dar, you mule ! Git along dar, git !"
" Reckon I 'd better stop that fellow where he is,"
said Fred, as soon as the team came within hailing dis-
" No, no !" I responded. " Let him come a little
nearer. Let 's see who the fellow is."
" Whack,whack,whack !" resounded the stick as it struck
the " cast-iron back " of the mule, while the wagon rattled
its way toward us. Finally, Fred, who was unable to
THE GITN-BEARER. 201
restrain his impatience longer, cried out, in a tone
unusually severe for him :
"Golly! Who dar? Wha-what 's dat? What 's
de matter ? What 's de matter ?" replied the startled
darkey, as he gave a sudden jerk to the reins which
brought his animal to a standstill.
"Who goes there ?"
" Nuffin' but a pore ol' nigga, who 's a-tryin' ter get
away from de rebels and to jine de Yankees !"
" What do you want to join the Yankees for ?" asked
" Kaze I does ! I done got a heap tired ob de rebs,
and I 's a gwine ter jine de odder side, I is !"
" Well, what have you got in your wagon ; anything
to eat ?"
" Ain't got nuffin', marse boss, but a few ol' fings,
what ain't no good ter nobody but a pore ol' nigga !"
" Drive up this way. Let 's see who you are."
" All right, marse ! I 's a comin', sho ! Git along
dar, you mule ! Git along dar !"
Again the stick was brought into service upon the
back of the unimpressionable mule and again every
bolt and rivet in the old wagon clattered and rattled as
it moved toward us.
"There," said Fred, "stop where you are."
" All right, marse ! Tell me ; is you de Yankee
" Yes," replied Fred. " Where are you from ?"
" 'Bout two miles from Lawrenceburg."
" What are you running away for ? Don't you know
the Johnnies are not within nine miles of you ?"
" Gollies, marse, I knows dat ; but dis chile 's power-
ful afraid of a flank movemant. Dat 's what 's de matter
202 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Where are the Johnnies now."
" Dey was in de 'burg this morning, and I jest got up
an' skedaddled 'fo' dey had de time ter flank me."
" Do you know how much of an army Hood has ?"
" I don' know, Marse, but dey has a heap o' men, and
dey's jist a gwine ter do a heap o' flanking, so I heerd
de white people sayin', but dey don' flank this chicken —
■' Where did you hear the rebs were going ?"
•' Dey 's a gwine ter git in the raar of de Yankees, an'
is a makin' for Duck Ribber."
" Was Hood's army moving when you left."
" Yes, an' dey was on deir road to Pulaski."
" Was the whole of Hood's army moving or only a
portion of it ?"
" I heerd dey was all amovin'."
" Think I'll take this fellow in," said Fred.
" Drive this way a bit, uncle, and I'll go with you.
Perhaps the captain would like to ask a few questions."
" All, right, marse, I'll do all I kin, de Lawd knows.
I dunno much, but I'll tell de cap'n dat sho. Git along
dar, you mule ; git along dar, git !" shouted the darkey
to his mule as Fred got into the wagon, which soon
disappeared in the darkness, down the road toward
Shortly after Fred returned to his post, and, with his
welcome presence, brought the information that our
wagon trains had already begun to leave Pulaski, were
on the road to Columbia, and that we would probably
shake the mud of that place from our feet before long. -
A little after daylight next morning we were called
in, to find that orders had been given for the entire
force to fall back to Lynnville, a little place, about half
way between Pulaski and Columbia. Here we were
joined by Wagner's Division of the Fourth Corps, and
THE GUN-BEARER. 203
with them intrenched ourselves in positions covering
the road leading from Lawrenceburg. We remained at
this point two or three days, and it was while we were here
that Black Lige disappeared. Captain Hartees seemed
to take the matter philosophically enough, and said that
he would see him again before long ; that his wife and
children lived not far from Columbia.
On the night of the 23d we left our intrenchments
and fell back to Hurricane, which is ten miles farther
north, and toward Columbia.
Jake, who was one of the first to get the news of this
movement, came up to the fire, where a little group of
us were making preparations for breakfast, and said :
" We 've got to move again, boys. I tell you what,
we ain't got nothing to say about Hood not being
smart. He 's turning the tables on us with a vengeance.
We don't no sooner get settled in a place than we have
to get. Just the same as Johnston did before Sher-
" Where are we going now ?" I asked, as soon as I
could get a word in.
"To Hurricane. Hood's a chasin' us up mighty
sharp, you bet. He 's a-getting over the roads after us
about as fast as we can get out of his way. If we keep
on at this rate we '11 see Nashville soon, I 'm thinking."
" Yes ; but we 're not going to see it without first
having a fight that '11 be a bad one for Hood," inter-
rupted Kimball, as he calmly blew the ashes off a
roasted potato, which he very mysteriously produced
from the hot ashes near the edge of the fire.
" Fight !" repeated Jake, abstractedly, as his eye
fastened on the potato. " Fight ! Where 'd you get
that potato ?"
Here everybody laughed at the sudden change in
Jake's manner — from a grumbling tone of voice to that
204 THE GUN-BEAKER.
of a person intensely interested in something to eat.
But he recovered quickly, and resumed :
" If we are ever going to do any more fighting, it 's
about time we were at it. It 's mighty discouraging —
this weather, not enough to eat, and a running away
from a lot of graybacks, that haven't known in a long
time what it was to win a fight. No wonder we haven't
seen the sun since the day we left Pulaski. I 'm dogged
if I don't believe he 's ashamed to shine on us for sneak-
ing away from the enemy all the time."
" Keep cool, Jake ; keep cool, my boy," replied Kim-
ball, breaking the roasted potato in half, and handing
one of the pieces to his grumbling comrade.
" ' Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow;
Don' yer bodder 'bout yer trouble till it comes.'
" We '11 get all the fighting we want before we reach
Nashville, don't you worry."
We started early in the afternoon for Hurricane,
which we reached late that night. A little before day-
break, on the following morning, we were aroused by
musketry firing, west of us and immediately were in
rapid motion toward it. After marching a little more
than two miles through the woods, we came in fall
view of an engagement between Forrest's cavalry and
a part of Stanley's command.
" It 's a cavalry fight," said Jake ; " and we ain't here
any too quick for 'em either. Our boys are backing
out. See !"
We had hardly discovered this fact when we heard
firing from the right of our own line. Simultaneously
came the order :
" Column, front into line !"
" Now Mr. Johnnie, look out," said Kimball.
" Fix bayonets !"
" That 's business," said Jake, as the click and clatter
which immediately followed this order, ran up and
down the line. " If we can't make Johnnie Reb skee-
dadle, this time, we 'd better go home."
" Forward, double quick, march !"
There were no laggards at that command ; every
man was in his place, all anxious to make the most of
206 THE GUN-BEARER.
an opportunity to drive the enemy back. After reach-
ing easy range, came the command :
" Halt ! Load and fire at will ! Load !"
" Now then !" said Fred, as he tore away the flap of
a cartridge with his teeth. " We '11 show 'em what 's
By this time a rapidly increasing fire, from the whole
length of our line, was being poured into the ranks of
the enemy ; who, dismayed and bewildered at the
sudden appearance of a force they evidently had not
counted on, speedily fell back in great confusion. The
punishment inflicted being so severe that they did not
again trouble us.
Later we fell back to Columbia, where we threw up
breastworks and otherwise strongly intrenched our-
selves south of the town.
Most of us were heartily sick of Hood's flank move-
ments. To make ready for an enemy and then not
have him do as you want him to is vexatious enough
when it occurs only once in a while ; but when it hap-
pens right along, without any change whatever,
the life of a soldier becomes monotonous in the ex-
We were all anxious to bring matters to a crisis ; to
force a condition of things where our position would,
in a measure, balance Hood's greater numerical strength
'and where he would be compelled to fight. The work
we had just completed at this place seemed to me all
that could be desired for this purpose, and I suggested
the probability of meeting the enemy and having our
trial with him here.
" You wait !" responded Jake. " Wait till Hood comes
up with his force and sees what we 've been doing.
There 's nothing to prevent him from flanking us here,
same as he 's done in other places. We '11 have to get
THE GUN-BEARER. 207
out here in a hurry before long, I 'm thinking ; then all
this dirt digging goes for nothing."
" Well," said Fred in reply, " we can't help it, if we
do have to get out. I hope, though, we '11 reach a
place before long where we can give Hood a warming.
He 's stronger than we, to be sure, and 't would be fool-
ish enough to try and break him up until we have
Thomas's army to help us. We can punish him badly,
though, if we are well intrenched and he ever gives us
Jake gave a grunt of disapproval and turned away.
He did not " take stock " in Hood's ever giving us that
chance ; but Kimball did and quickly responded :
" He '11 give us all the chance we want, sure 's my
name 's Kimball, and that, too, before we reach Thomas.
He won't content himself by doing as Sherman did.
He '11 try and do better — be smarter, like."
Our well-defended front kept the enemy quiet for a
long time ; but on the night of the 25th there were
whisperings of a flank movement. Shortly after, in
company with another brigade we left our intrench-
ments and marched through Columbia to Duck River,
which we crossed on the pontoons.
The stream at this place describes a sharp curve, and
the point upon which we were halted and expected to
defend, if need be, was partly surrounded by the frown-
ing bluffs on the Columbia side. The next morning we
were again called up to handle the pick and shovel.
Breastworks were thrown up a little way from the
river bank, but the position was one of the worst that
could have been selected. Do what we might, there
was absolutely no protection for us. We were on noth-
ing like an even footing with the enemy.
I never had found a great deal of fault with places
that had heretofore been selected as best suited for
208 THE GUN-BEARER.
defense, because, for one good reason, I did not, for a
long time, know much about these things ; and, sec-
ondly, I was never much of a faultfinder on any occa-
sion ; but I could not help ventilating my opinion as to
I had learned something in my past six months of
active army life — something of movements and defensi-
ble positions, and was thereby enabled to talk under-
standing^ at this time and on this particular subject.
A man, without any special knowledge of such matters,
could have seen, at a glance, the position we then occu-
pied could not be held. In reply to what I had to say
on the subject, Fred said :
" It 's a fact, Dan, it 's not much of a place for
intrenchments ; and, for the life of me, I can't see the
use of wasting labor here when we might do better
farther on. Orders are orders, though ; and whether
they 're for good or for bad, we 've got to obey them."
" I reckon Hood '11 make mincemeat of us if he catches
us in this fix," remarked Jake, who had been listening
to our conversation. "Just see what a chance for a
cross-fire of artillery," pointing to the hight bluff on the
other side of the river. " Why, they can just toss per-
cussion shell on to our heads if they want to, and we
can't help ourselves. Just after breakfast I heard that
the whole of our army was going to leave the works on
the other side to-night, and come over here."
" What else can they do ?" responded Fred. " They
can't hold out against Hood's whole army."
" No," I don't expect they can," answered Jake.
" Neither do I expect Hood's army is going to give 'em
much of a chance, if they wanted to fight ever so bad.
I '11 tell you what, boys. I 'm getting sick of this. I 'd
a heap rather fight than dig dirt."
"Well, Jake, you '11 soon have a chance," said Kim-
THE G UN-BEARER. 209
ball, " they 're having a little skirmish now, along the
line, outside the town. Don't you hear them ? That
sounds as if Hood was drawing in on our front,
" Yes, I hear 'em," said Jake, as he rested his foot on
his spade, a moment, " but that don't signify anything.
He 's just thrown out a few skirmishers to hold our
attention while the balance of his army is working
around in our rear. I 'm afraid it 's only another
signal for us to fall back again."
"Well, I don't care if it is," said Fred. "This is a
little the worst place for a stand that I ever got into."
Every one echoed this sentiment, but, as usual, we kept
at our work until it was finished.
Late that night, I awoke shivering with the cold,
and had to get up and move around to warm myself,
for we dare not have any fires now. The river and the
high bank on the opposite side were shrouded in gloom.
I could see nothing in this inky blackness, but on one
side, I could hear the tramp, tramp, tramp of infantry,
crossing the railroad bridge, and on the other side, the
scuffle of many feet on the pontoons.
As I stood listening to the various sounds of the
night, I heard a familiar voice singing, softly —
"I '11 be dar,
I '11 be dar,
Wen dejudgmen' roll is call,
I '11 be dar."
" Ho, Lige !" I called. " Is that you ?"
" Yes, Maws Dan."
" Where 've you been ?"
" Been home ter see my wife."
" See her ?"
"Yes. She 's dar still. Hed a powerful good time,
Maws Dan ! Powerful good time !"
210 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Where 's Hood ?"
" He 's a gwine ter work around in our raar. Gwine
ter cross de ribber above here a piece and git in 'tween
us an' Nashville. Here, Maws Dan, take dis ! Dinah
bake dat dis mawnin'."
I held out my hand in the darkness and received a
spongy substance, which proved to be a most delicious
" They 've got us in a box here, Lige !" I said ; but
he was gone, and I heard him, as he vanished in the
darkness, singing, as usual, to himself :
" Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow."
There was a peculiar philosophy for me in that song,
and, as I ate my corn pone before going to sleep, I
determined not to bother about trouble until it came.
In the gray of the early morning, while moving
farther down the stream, we discovered that the whole
of our little army had crossed the river in the night
and that the bridges, over which they had passed, had
We reached our new position and had intrenched
ourselves in it by sunrise. The sky was dark and
cloudy, and the deep shadows of night still lingered in
the chill mists that clung to the trees on both sides of
the river. Fred and I stood on the edge of the bank,
gazing up and down the stream ; everything was so
quiet on the opposite side that we had no thought of
danger here. Just at this moment, however, Captain
Hartees, who had come up, unobserved, behind us,
" Look out, boys — down !"
We three dropped to earth, instantly ; and almost at
the same instant two reports from the thick woods
above us, on the other side, followed by the "zip, zip " of
THE GUN-BEARER. 211
two bullets passing harmlessly over our heads, ex-
plained the importance of the caution.
" Close rub that, cap'n," said Fred.
" Got to keep your eyes open sharp," replied Hartees,
as he arose and quickly disappeared through the woods
in our rear.
" Queer," said Fred, as he turned and looked after
the captain, " queer ; that man \s always around when
we 're in danger. Come, we can't follow his advice any
too quickly ; let 's get out of this. There 's another."
A flash, a little puff of smoke, a report, and another
whistling evidence that the enemy were watching hur-
ried us back to the shelter of our rifle pits, where we
were content to await further developments.
Later in the forenoon a succession of brighter flashes,
from the woods skirting the edge of the bluff, followed
by clouds of smoke, the roar of cannon and the shrill
piping shell, announced that the enemy had his artillery
in position and was disposed to use it. Still later, our
own artillery behind us, replied to the enemy's fire, and
kept it up at intervals throughout the day.
It was an artillery duel, with a stream of water
separating the combatants ; but with the exception of
making a deafening roar, neither side enjoyed any
peculiar advantage over the other.
Late in the afternoon, during a lull in the firing,
some one shouted :
" Look, the Johnnies are coming out of the woods !
They are running down the bank and are going to
" Fact !" said Fred, peering through the bushes in
front of us. " And they 're bringing their pontoons
" How many are there ?" I asked.
** Perhaps two or three regiments," answered Fred.
212 THE GUN-BEARER.
" May be there are more. Look out ! There goes the
artillery again, to cover 'em. Let 'em fire if they want
to ; it won't do 'em any good."
" What 's the matter with our own batteries ?" I
asked, noting that the firing was all from one side.
" Oh they '11 get 'round to it later — but what 's that
going on there over on the other side ?"
" Why, what do you see ?"
" I don't know as I see anything now, but I thought
I saw a — a — yes and by Jove I did see it too ;" said
Fred, excitedly pulling back the hammer to his rifle
which he raised to a level with the earth in front of us.
" See there, will you, over there by that little open
space in the woods, and on a line with that chimney
above ; see 'em, the Johnnies, they 're coming down the
hill, and, as sure 's you live, they 're going to cross.
Now 's our time, Dan, let 's put in some good work,
my boy, while we have a chance. There 's one of 'em
now. Just keep your eye on that fellow in the lead ;
the one with the pole on his shoulder, I mean."
Looking in the direction indicated, I saw, among a lot
of stalwart fellows coming down the hill and struggling
through the thick underbrush, which at that point
reached the water's edge, the head and shoulders of a
man, made more conspicuous than his comrades by a
stout pole he carried on his shoulder. While watching,
I heard the crack of my companion's rifle, and instantly
saw this man stumble and fall.
" How was that, Dan ? Did I hit him ?"
" Think you did," I replied ; " he fell over as soon as-
you fired, and those who were with him disappeared at
the same time."
We '11 just lay for those fellows, now, and give 'em a
warming. They will break cover directly, and we '11
have a good whack at 'em before they get away."
THE GUN-BEARER. 213
Presently the enemy appeared near the water's edge
with their pontoons, which were quickly launched,
loaded, pushed off and started in an oblique line for our
side of the river. Fred and I fired again and again, but
with what effect we could not see, the enemy working
hurriedly, paying no regard to us.
" Well," said Fred, speculatively, as he eyed the cross-
ing boats, " they 're not going to land here, at all events.
They '11 bring up somewhere below us, I 'm thinking."
I confessed I was not sorry ; for, with our scattered
line in the pits, we could not hold out against any body
of men. It was true there was not more than a
brigade of the enemy, at most ; but they were to-
The boats soon passed from sight, under cover of the
bank, and it was not until toward dusk that we heard
anything more of them. Then a rapid succession of
shots gave signal for "the rebel yell," which was
answered by loud shouts from the heights on the oppo-
site side, supplemented, in turn, by a roar of artillery
and small arms.
" That 's business," said Fred, " and if there were
more of them it might be just as well for us if we got
out of this ; but they can't spread, they '11 lose their
grip if they do."
" Sounds as if our skirmishers were on the run."
14 Of course they are. They '11 fall back until they
reach the main line, and then, Mister Johnnie, look
At this moment the enemy's battery ceased firing,
and we could hear our men contesting every inch of
the way in their retreat. Later, the tone of the shout-
ing was changed, and we heard the welcome shouts of
the reinforced skirmishers, who were now returning
and driving the Confederates before them.
214 THE GUN-BEARER.
As the noise of the conflict drew nearer, some of the
boys began to leave their pits, when Hartees shouted :
" Down, every mother's son of you ! Don't let a man
leave his post until he gets orders !"
" That 's the thing to do always," said Fred. " Better
be in the reserve all day and stay there until you 're
wanted, than rush into a fight when you 're not needed.
Rosseau 's got all the help he wants to run the Johnnies
into the river."
More and more distinct became the tramp of feet ;
louder and nearer grew the rattle of musketry, as
pursuers and pursued approached the bank of the
river. Finally the tramping ceased, and a line of
flashes from the rifles of our troops seemed to say :
" The enemy have reached the water and we 're do-
ing our level best to drive them into it."
Almost immediately the artillery from the other side
again opened on us, and we were compelled to lie low
and keep out of the way. This time, too, our guns re-
sponded to the fire and, I fancied, with rather more
spirit than before.
It is tedious business to be compelled to fold your
hands and submit to inactivity in a rifle pit, but there 's
no help for it when a battery, stationed a short distance
in your rear, is keeping up an incessant firing over your
heads. The roar of cannon, the scream and hiss and
shriek of flying lead and iron, the uncontrollable feeling
of dread and doubt, intensified by every bursting shell,
maddens and keeps the nerves strained to their Utmost.
But we had no choice in the matter, and there we lay,
smoked our pipes and listened and shivered and waited.
After a while our fire slackened considerably and
finally ceased altogether. Still later we heard a few
orders given, which were quickly followed by the move-
ments of "limbering up," then the familiar cluck of
THE GUN-BEARER. 215
gun-carriage wheels, growing fainter and fainter as the
battery moved away.
" Thank heaven, they 're gone !" said Fred, a few
moments after their departure. " I 'm tired of artillery
fighting, and don't want to hear any more of it in a
hurry. There 's always so much bluster and smoke and
bellowing about it. It 's all well enough to be backed
up by a battery or to know you can have one when you
want it, but it 's a mighty noisy helper."
" Nothing like it for shrapnel or for grape or canister,
just when the enemy are bearing down on you a little
too hard, eh ?"
" Oh, yes ; artillery's a mighty good thing then, but
too noisy for steady work at short range. Great Scott,
how my head aches ! Fit to burst, and my ears fairly
ring with the infernal noise they made. Well, they 're
gone and we can straighten up once more. But we 've-
got to keep our eyes open. I wonder what 's going on
in the rear ?"
Looking in that direction I saw, in the fading light,
the shadowy forms of orderlies flitting to and fro among
" What 's up ?" asked Fred.
" Looks as if we were getting ready to move again,"
I replied. " Do you think we are ?"
" Hard to tell. There 's Jake, just coming out of
the woods and crawling toward his pit. Hail him and
see what he has to say about it."
"Ho, Jake !" I cried. "What's the matter back
" Matter enough," responded Jake. " Forrest's cav-
alry has crossed the river below us, and they 're to
swing around on our flank so as to strike our left and
" Where 's Hood ?"
216 THE GUN-BEARER.
"Crossed^he river farther up, and is coming down
the other way."
" What have we got to do ?"
'• Stay where we are. The entire force, with the ex-
ception of the Twelfth and Sixteenth Kentucky, are
going to fall back to Franklin."
" What are we to be left behind for ?"
" We 've got to do skirmish duty until midnight, then
we '11 git too. By that time, though, Hood '11 be be-
tween us and Franklin, and we '11 not only have to frog
it ten or fifteen miles, but we 11 also have to do some
mighty sharp work, I 'm thinking, to git by the rebs
without being seen. They '11 gobble us, sure 's you
live, if they only catch sight of us. It 's always the
way. Whenever there 's any dirty work to do the
Twelfth and Sixteenth have got to do it."
" Our forces start soon, then ?"
"Start ? They 've already started. There 's going to
be some awful close work in the next forty-eight
hours," muttered Jake to himself, as he turned and
crawled back his post.
" Gad, Dan !" said Fred. " This is a bad business —
a mighty bad business, whether it 's orders or not !
This gives us no chance at all, and leaves us completely
at the mercy of the enemy. We 're only a handful of
men, at best, and we 've been left here to be taken
prisoners, to be slaughtered or anything else, so long
as an appearance is kept up that our whole force has
not stepped out."
" It seems as if it wouldn't have been any more than
fair to have put some one else down for this work,"
said I. " Hardly the right thing to make two regiments
do this kind of work all the time."
" That 's just what 's the matter," assented Fred, his
face suddenly assuming a thoughtful expression. Then
THE GUN-BEARER. 217
rousing himself, he asked, in a voice which had not a
trace of discouragement in it :
" What have you got to eat ?"
" Only half a dozen hard tack. Why ?"
" Nothing much. Only that 's six more than I 've
got, and it seems to me that it 's about time that we
were eating something. I 'm as hungry as a wolf, and
have only a small piece of bacon."
" No pork ?"
" No. Pork 's been a mighty scarce article lately.
What with Forrest's Cavalry flying here and there all
the time, being always on the move ourselves, and the
bad roads, it 's a wonder to me that we get anything
" Trot out your bacon then, if that 's all you 've got,
and we '11 divide ! Here 's three hard tack for you !"
" Hark !" interrupted Fred, suddenly, standing up
and assuming a listening attitude. " What 's that ?
Skirmishers to the rear ? Hello there, sergeant, what 's
the matter now ?"
" Orders to leave here," replied the sergeant, hur-
riedly. " Got to take position farther down the river —
just beyond the bend. Better get over there lively ;
the rest of the boys have started."
" Here 's some of our boys now," said Fred. " Let 's
go along with them. Here is Jake and Kimball and
" Well, Fred, they 're bound to do us up this time,
sure," said Jake, not giving Fred an opportunity to fin-
ish his sentence. " This is what I call rough — to make
a fellow leave trenches like these for a place where, I '11
bet, there ain't no cover at all."
" Rough or not, we 've got to make the best of it,"
replied Fred. " It 's all in ' three years or during the
war.' What 's troubling me now, more than anything
else, is something to eat." Then to me : "We '11 have
to postpone our supper until later, Dan ; guess we
might as well divide those hard tack now, and the bacon
when we stop. Come !"
Leaving our narrow quarters, we followed on after
our comrades. Almost perfect silence was observed
during the half hour we were changing positions. Only
the muffled tramp of feet, the cracking of twigs or the
rustling of leaves gave any indication of our movement.
I had no desire to talk, for my mind was filled with
the gloomiest forebodings. We were only a handful
of men, and I had no doubt that Hood's army was at
that moment cutting off all hope of retreat to Franklin.
A little beyond the bend we found men, belonging to
other companies, stationed at regular intervals along
the bank, and, just as Jake predicted, where there was
little or no protection from the enemy's fire, in case
they should open on us.
Fred and I were assigned to one post and, after the
sergeant with the rest of the company had left us, we
endeavored in the darkness to take in our new position.
As near as we could make out, we were near a ford.
Directly in front of us were two small trees standing
close together. A little beyond this, we heard the
river with its whirling and plashing current of black
waters. The night air was heavy with moisture, which
hung over us like a pall, and made the darkness,
shrouding both sides of the river, more intense, more
We immediately set to work with our bayonets and
hands, and soon had piled the earth high enough, be-
tween the two trees, to make a comparatively safe
shelter for ourselves. The enemy's picket, which lined
220 THE GUN-BEARER.
the opposite side of the river, at this point, seemed de-
termined to make our position as uncomfortable as
possible, and opened fire on us occasionally. This made
it necessary for us to lie flat on the earth most of the
During the intervals of firing, with the exception of
some far-away echo or the sound of the stream as it
flowed lapsing and sucking by the banks or rippled
over the shallows at the ford, the silence, after the roar
of artillery through the day, was startling. After lying
in this position some moments I felt something touch me.
" What is it ?" I asked nervously.
" Bacon," answered the reassuring voice of Fred.
" It ain't much of a supper, Dan, but it 's all we 've got,
and we 'd better eat it now."
Neither of us had a drop of water in our canteens,
and we were both chilled to the marrow ; but I cannot
remember when I ever enjoyed a meal more thoroughly
than I did my share of the last six crackers and an
equal part of Fred's bacon.
For fully a quarter of an hour the solemn stillness
reigned. Then suddenly, as if in obedience to a given
signal, a line of fire blazed out from the woods on the
opposite bank, and the whistle and zip of a shower of
bullets struck among the leaves around us or flew harm-
lessly over our heads.
Word was quietly passed from post to post along the
line that our safety depended on silence and hugging
the earth as closely as possible. We made ourselves as
comfortable as we could, and listened to a sound, like
the noise made by an army crossing a pontoon bridge,
somewhere below us.
" Our line can't be a very long one," I said. "The
enemy don't seem to have any opposition in crossing."
" Sound travels a good bit on the water. Then our
THE GUN-BEARER. 221
heads are close to the earth, and we can hear a noise
like that made below a long way off."
" This sort of thing can't last long," said I. " Hood
is close upon us, and it seems to me he 's going to force
a fight soon."
" That 's what he 's after, you may depend. Well,
some of our boys have been aching for a fight for a
long time. As if one fight would settle anything !"
" There 's one thing we 've learned, and that is to
appreciate the feelings of Johnston's army when it was
being pressed by Sherman. It isn't the fight the boys
want so much as it is to be doing something. Action
is better than freezing."
" I 'd rather get warm some other way. There they
go again !"
Once more the enemy opened fire upon us ; this time
a little heavier than usual. Almost simultaneously a
voice on my right cried out in agony :
" Oh ! Oh ! Oh !"
" God !" said Fred. " Who 's that ?"
" Oh, help !"
" Careful !" said Fred, loud enough to be heard by the
wounded man. " Don't let 'em hear you on the other
side. They '11 fire again if they do."
" Oh— I— can't— help— it ! Oh ! Oh ! Help me !
" I can't stand this," I said to Fred, and started to
relieve the sufferer ; but Fred pulled me back, saying :
" Be careful, Dan, you can't do him any good, and the
rebs will fire again as soon as they hear him."
" I don't care if they do. I 'm — "
" H-e-l-p !" shrieked the poor unfortunate, with all
the strength at his command.
As this cry of distress echoed up and down the river,
another blaze from the enemy's rifles, and another
222 THE GUN-BEARER.
shower of bullets whistled through the air uncomfort-
ably near us. One of these missiles struck the tree
nearest us and burst.
" My God !" exclaimed Fred, who had observed this
fact. " They 're firing explosive bullets at us. There 's
no help for a fellow if he ever gets hit with one of those
An instant of silence and another agonized voice cried
"Come here, somebody, quick i"
" Who 's that ?" I asked of Fred, thinking I knew the
" Oh, hurry, some one — quick ! For God's sake, help
me, quick ! I can't do anything alone. Jake ! Fred !
"Yes," said Fred, who had located the voice, and was
now, regardless of his caution to me, moving quickly
toward the spot whence it came. I also started, but
in the other direction, to aid the first comrade who
called. I found him only a short distance away. He
was lying on his side, dead. I felt of his face ; it was
beardless, and covered with a cold sweat. I could not
tell, in the pitchy darkness, who he was, and I crawled
back to my post, where I was soon joined by my com-
" Who was it, Fred ?" I asked.
" It was — was — ah, how can I say it ! How can I
believe that he is dead !"
Then, after a pause, he continued :
" It was — Kimball, poor fellow. He was shot in the
shoulder, and, when I got there, was trying to prevent
himself from bleeding to death. He had pulled up the
cape of his overcoat, and was trying to press it into the
wound. He told me what he had done, and that his
entire shoulder seemed to have been shattered by an
THE GUN-BEARER. 223
explosive bullet. I took out my big red handkerchief
to help him, but 't was no use ; before I could think of
what I ought to do, he said : ' Give me some water, Fred,'
and fell over dead."
" He is the first of our mess to go," I said.
" Yes ; we 've been together a long time, Dan, and
to think this is the end. Kimball was a brave soldier,
Dan ; he never shirked his duty. Many a time, when
he 's been as much used up as any of us, he has helped
you and me and others over hard places. Then, he was
always ready to divide rations with his comrades. Poor
Kimball ! God help us all ! Common bullets are bad
enough, but these infernal machines — they 're only fit
to be used by cowards and assassins."
" It 's too bad !" I said. " The other one on the right
is also dead."
" Did you go to him ?"
" Who was he ?"
" I don't know. No one I could think of in our com-
pany. This has been a bad night for us, so far. I
wonder how much longer they intend to keep us here ?"
"Oh, I don't know what to think ! If you 'd been
over there with Kimball when he was hopelessly strug-
gling for his life and been made to feel as I did, that
only a few minutes were left in which to do anything,
and then to know you were powerless and unable to
save him, you would feel as dazed as I do. I 've left
many a good man behind me in a charge and, in the
excitement of the moment, thought nothing of it ; at
least, it never made the impression on me this has.
There is only one thought uppermost in my mind, and
that 's Kimball. I wish we were out of this. In all
the time I 've been in the service, I never felt as I do
224 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Oh, pshaw !" I said, trying to make light of Fred's
melancholy mood. " There 's no use getting blue over
what can't be helped. You 're only cold and nervous."
"I feel as if something were going to happen." Then,
as if he had suddenly realized he was getting to be a
trifle childish, he added : " This day's work has been
too much for me. Look out, there they go again !"
Once more the rifles of the enemy flash out in the
darkness on the opposite bank, and this time a shower
of bullets whistled harmlessly over our heads. After
an instant of silence, the clear ringing voice of
Hartees, echoed up and down the river :
Absolute silence was preserved along the line, on
both sides. It seemed as if the river had ceased to
flow ; that the leaves had stopped their rustling ; that
even the winds, with bated breath, had paused for what
might follow. Again the commanding voice of our
captain pierced the chilly night air :
"Men," he said, "if another shot is fired from the
other side to-night, open every gun on them."
" That ought to fix them," said Fred, in a low tone.
Fix them it did, for they had not forgotten the shell-
ing of the afternoon, and must have been in doubt
whether our artillery was still before them or not.
However that may have been, the picket on the other
side did no more shooting that night.
An hour later I took Fred's canteen and my own and
crept out from behind our shelter, toward the river
bank, where I dropped silently down. There, on hands
and knees, through mud and ooze, to the water's edge,
I felt my way, filled both canteens, and returned to my
Once I heard the breaking of a twig, not far from
me ; then came a hurried rustle of leaves, quickly fol-
THE GUN-BEARER. 225
lowed by a furtive intermittent noise, as of an animal
moving through the woods. " It is the wind," thought I,
" or, perchance, some of my comrades who, like myself,
have been to the river for water."
Whatever it was that occasioned the noise, nothing
further occurred until midnight, when I heard a slight
movement in our rear, as if some one was cautiously
approaching. I listened intently, and fixed my eyes in
the direction from which the noise came. The dark-
ness was impenetrable. I could discern nothing.
Suddenly a sound, as of a musket-stock striking a
stone or stump, and then :
" Who goes there ?" from Fred, in a quick, low tone.
" Co'p'l o' the guard," came a suppressed reply.
" Oh, it 's you, Dick, is it ? What "s up ?"
" Goin' to git out o' this at once. Goin' to fall back
to Franklin. Fall in on the Pike 's the orders."
" Thank God for that ! Did you know Kimball was
" What ? Dead ?"
" That 's bad. Where is he ?"
" Next post. Can't a few of us bury him ?"
" No ; we 've got no time to do that. It 's mighty
hard to leave him to be stripped by the rebs, but there 's
no help for it now. Did he have any valuables with
him — a watch or anything ?"
" I know he had a watch, but I didn't have the heart
to look for it or for anything else ?"
" His friends would like 'em, mebbe. Where does he
" About a dozen rods, in a straight line, below us."
" I '11 take a look. Hurry back to the road. We 've
got no time to lose. Rebs are already between us and
Franklin. Ought to have been out of this an hour ago."
226 THE GUN-BEARER.
As the corporal hurried away we started for the road
from which we had been separated by a narrow belt of
woods. Here we groped and stumbled and fell, being
compelled at times to almost feel our way, the darkness
was so intense. Once Fred took hold of my arm and said :
" Stop a bit. Didn't somebody call me ?"
" No," I replied.
" Thought I heard my name."
'• Imagination," I said.
" Perhaps so, but somehow the sound of Kimball's
voice keeps ringing in my ears. I fancied I heard
some one calling for help."
" Come," I said, " let 's get out of this. We 've a long
tramp ahead of us, and but little time to do it in."
After pausing a moment or two longer, and satisfy-
ing himself that the sounds he heard were only the prod-
uct of his imaginings, Fred let go of my arm, saying,
as he did so :
" Well, we can do no good here." Then, with a sigh :
" I hate to leave a man like Kimball was lying there
like a dog. We may as well go, though."
Again we groped our way through the woods, Fred
occupied with his thoughts, I with mine, and neither of
us speaking. Just before reaching the road I kicked
along a small object which aroused my curiosity.
Stooping down, I picked up what proved to be a sol-
dier's cap. It was just what I wanted, for mine was
worn and old and the visor was twisted out of shape.
The cap I had just found was apparently new. I could
tell that by feeling the nap on the cloth. The visor
was also straight. -
Passing my hand mechanically around the lining, my
fingers suddenly slipped through a ragged hole in front
and above the visor strap. The inside band was also
wet and stuck to my fingers.
THE GUN-BEARER. 227
With a thrill of horror I dropped the cap, satisfied
that the owner had been shot through the head, and if
it were now day instead of night I should see him lying
dead within a few feet of me. As a full sense of the
picture filled me, I could not help the thought, " If a
soldier must yield his life for his country, better die a
swift death like that than die as Kimball did."
A few steps farther on I reached the road, but was
surprised to hear none of our men passing, nothing but
the far-off sound of footsteps hurrying on their way to
Franklin. Here I also discovered that my companion
was not with me. This startled me into a realizing
sense of my loneliness, and I waited and wondered.
Where was Fred ?
Had I loitered ? I was not conscious of it. Had
Fred retraced his steps ? He surely would not do that ?
He was with me just before I picked up the cap ; since
that time I had heard nothing of him ; there could be
only one reasonable solution to my perplexity. Fred
had passed me, joined those who had gone ahead, and
if I would overtake him I must follow him quickly.
This I did.
Once I fancied my name was spoken by some one.
I ran in the direction of the voice and shouted : " Fred !
Fred !" but obtained no reply. There was no one to
answer me. Not even the sound of footsteps now. I
was alone. The deep silence which brooded over the
earth seemed ominous of evil. Should I go on or wait ?
I could travel this road alone, and perhaps remain
undiscovered as long as the night lasted. But what
would the daylight bring ? A night bird flapped his
wings above my head and uttered a cry of warning.
Fearful of further delay, I pressed forward.
A mile was passed without a sound other than my
own footsteps. What wonder was it that a deep-toned
228 THE GUN-BEARER.
voice, speaking out in the darkness, almost at my side,
caused my heart to bound and set my pulses throbbing ?
" Say thar !" said the voice. " What 's yer hurry ?"
I stopped instantly.
"Hello ! Have yer seen any 'f ther Sixteenth Ken-
" No," I replied, in a scarcely audible voice, though
with a feeling of relief that I had not met an enemy.
"Belong to the Twelfth myself."
" Glad ter know it, dogged 'f I ain't. Heerd yer
comin' 'nd thought p'rhaps 't was one 'f our crowd, so I
waited fer yer. Reckon 't ain't no use huntin' fer any
more 'f ther stragglers, such a night 's this."
" You 're right," I responded, glad to know I had met
one of my own brigade. " I left my partner back there
by the river an hour ago, and have been waiting and
hunting for him ever since, thinking he would turn up."
" P'rhaps he '11 turn up after awhile ; but I 'm thinkin'
yer '11 see ther rebs first. They 're thicker 'n bees in
swarmin' time 'tween us 'nd Franklin, 'nd 'f we don't
keep tergether 'nd hurry along right sharp we '11 git
snapped up, fer sure."
" Come on, then. I 'm with you."
" Thar 's whar yer right. Better a blamed sight look
out fer yerself ; yer partner '11 turn up all right at
" If we ever get there," I interrupted.
" Oh, we '11 git thar, 'f we only stick ter it long enough.
Say, pard, what 's yer name ?"
I told him.
" And what 's yours ?" I asked.
" Nicholas Searle. Ther boys call me Nick fer short.
I say, Dan, we 'd better double-quick it fer a while 'nd
see 'f we can't catch up with ther rest 'f ther boys. It 's
gittin' a little skeery 'round these parts, 'nd we '11 stand
THE GUN-BEARER. 229
a heap better show er gittin' through 'f we 're all ter-
" Double-quick it is, then," I responded.
After running and walking for half an hour or more,
I saw, a short distance in front of us, a small point of
light — now glowing, now disappearing, as a firefly light.
I knew it could not be produced by an insect at this
season of the year ; and, becoming puzzled to explain
it to my own satisfaction, I took hold of Nick's arm and
" What 's ther matter ?" asked Nick.
" A light," I said. " See it ?"
" What ? Where ? I don't see no light."
" Wait a moment, and you '11 see it ; it 's only a small
speck of light, but it 's over there on the left."
At brief intervals the light appeared and disap-
" See it ?" I asked.
" Yes," replied Nick, after a moment of hesitation,
"it 's some Johnnie smokin' ; 'nd yer kin bet yer shoes
they 're mighty thick 'round here ter be so earless 's
that. We might 's well jog along ; they 've heerd us
'fore this. Come on. I '11 do ther talkin'."
In a few moments we were hailed with :
" Halt ! Whar yer gwine ?"
" Lookin' fer ther boys," replied Nick.
" What regiment d' yer b'long ter ?"
" Georgy Tigers."
" Which-a-way 'd yer come ?"
" 'Long ther Pike Road, from Columby."
" Seen any 'f ther Yanks ?"
" No. Why ?"
"Thought mebbe yer mought Ve seen some 'f 'em."
"Who be you uns ?" asked Nick.
"Twenty-ninth North Car'liny."
230 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Whar 's Hood all ?"
" Spring Hill, 'nd a right good jog ahead it is too."
"Wall, here 's arter 'em," and Nick grasped me
nervously by the arm, saying as he did so, " come on
" Hold on thar ! How many d' yer count ?"
" Lively Dan, lively my boy," whispered Nick, in-
creasing his speed, " we 've got to leg it.ter git out er
this, 't won't do ter let 'em scratch a match on us.
Thought they was lettin' us off easy-like."
" Halt thar ! D' yer hear ?" demanded the voice.
" Quick, Dan," said Nick, " let 's leave ther road.
We '11 do better on ther side 'nd won't make so much
We scarce had time to reach the roadside when a
shot was fired after us. Another and yet another rifle
flared out in the darkness, but the bullets, while we
heard them whistle by, did us no harm. Our inquisitors
were evidently too tired to pursue us, for they con-
tented themselves with these three shots and we heard
nothing more of them.
We ran at full speed some distance and then slack-
ened our pace to a rapid walk. It seemed to me I
never was so tired, that the roads were never in a
worse condition, and that we would never overtake our
Several times we heard firing ahead, but this only
stimulated us to greater exertion. We knew the im-
portance of making the most of our time and reaching
the main body of our detail while it was yet dark. At
last we found them walking, rapidly and silently, on the
right of the turpike. Nick was first to discover the
progress we had made, and encouraged us with :
" Here they are, Dan. Take it easy, now, my boy
We 've got along so fur all right, thank God ! Hard
work, aint it ?"
" You 're right," I replied, when I had recovered from
the last run sufficiently to speak. " I couldn't have
gone any farther at that pace."
" Wall, I 'd about gi'n out myself ; but it 's a heap
better 'n 'twas back thar at Columby, 'nd we 're 'n a heap
better condition ter whoop 'em up fer ther Johnnies, 'f
they trouble us. Say, comrade," speaking to one of the
party we had just overtaken, " what was that firin'
fer, a while ago ?"
" Skirmish, I reckon. Rebs is thick all around us,
and they 're thick on the other side of the Pike."
" Did yer have a hand in ther skirmish ?"
" No, ' twas way ahead o' us."
" Where are we ?"
" Don' know ! Some on em says we ain't far from
232 THE GUN-BEARER.
Spring Hill ; though what they knows about it, I 'm
blamed 'f I know ! Some on 'em says, too, that ther
rebs are camped ahead 'f us on ther other side 'f ther
Pike 'nd that we '11 see their fires pretty quick !"
"Shouldn't be s'prised 'f we did!" responded Nick.
" 'Nd 'f we don't see more 'n fires we '11 be lucky ! It 's
goin' ter be a close rub ! Mighty close ! That 's what 's
ther matter !"
Here we halted, and it was with difficulty I could re-
sist the impulse to unroll my blanket and lie down to
sleep. As it was I sat down, stretched my weary limbs
and dozed until shaken into wakefulness by Nick, who
informed me word had been passed along the line that,
when started again, we must move together quickly
and noiselessly. Every man was to be alert and ready
for an attack at any moment.
There had been some speculation as to our where-
abouts and what our chances were of getting by the
enemy without being seen and reaching Franklin in
safety. Whatever the differences may have been as to
minor details, all were agreed on one point, and that
was, we were about half way between Columbia and
Franklin, and if our presence and strength were dis-
covered by the enemy we would be " gobbled." With
this comforting assurance we resume our march.
Ears are strained to catch the slightest sound of the
enemy. Eyes ache as we attempt, in vain, to pierce
the pitchy darkness which shuts us in. Hardly a word
is spoken. Matches are not lighted by smokers. Each
man feels that upon him rests the responsibility for the
safety of every other man.
We had not been on the road more than half an hour
when it seemed to me I heard a sound behind us as if
we were being pursued. Once I stopped an instant and
listened, but heard nothing.
THE GUN-BEARER. 233
" What is it, Dan ?" asked Nick, noting the pause.
" Thought I heard the rebs after us, double quick."
" 'T wouldn't be no great s'prise 'f we did have a little
scrimmage 'fore we git out er this. Rebs is all around
us, 'nd — " hesitatingly — " there they are, sure 's you 're
" Where ?" I asked, quickly, expecting to hear a volley
of musketry before a reply could be made.
" Jest over the hill yonder. See that light loomin' up
thar, ter the left ?"
I looked and plainly saw the hill outlined against the
red glow beyond.
" No doubt er them bein' rebs," said Nick ; " 'nd I
reckon they 're not more 'n half a mile away."
" Good thing for us they haven't tried to control the
" Reckon they don't b'lieve there 's any need er
lookin' arter ther road. Ther rebs 's tired 's we be, 'nd
they 're not goin' ter bother their heads 'bout a few
stragglers ; 'nd that 's all there is of us, 'nd they know
it. Hark ! What was that ? Halt !"
Nick turned quickly, bringing his gun to a ready.
There was no mistake this time. We not only heard the
tramp of feet ; we also heard the rattle and click of
" Halt, thar, I say !" repeated Nick, in a louder tone,
as the party showed no disposition to stop. " 'F yer don't
stand whar yer be, we '11 blow yer ter pieces. Who be
" Stragglers from th' Sixteenth and Twelfth Ken-
tucky, from Columbia."
" Come on, then. Dogged 'f yer ain't hed ter leg it.
Seen any 'f ther rebs ?"
" Only a few pieces of artillery that passed a couple
of miles back."
234 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Which way 'd they go ?"
" Crossed the road and moved off to the left."
" Didn't see nobody else, no pickets, nor nothin' ?"
" That 's all right then, they won't bother us."
The newcomers proved to be three men from the
Sixteenth Kentucky and four men from the Twelfth
Kentucky, the latter belonging to Company C. They had
all been left behind in the hurry of departure, but no
one questioned them particularly, as a few moments
later we came in full view of the camp fires of large
bodies of troops.
It was suggested that Schofield was in bivouac there,
but there was no one who cared to investigate. The
camp was almost parallel with the turnpike for a long
distance, and we hurried by like phantoms.
. Once we saw a body of horsemen passing between
us and the light, but they were going in an opposite
direction and quickly disappeared from view. Before
losing sight of the bivouac of our foes, we dimly saw
between it and us a force of some sort. Nearer to the
road, we pass a few of our men silently standing beside
a barricade of rails, evidently watching for some move-
ment in opposition to our own.
The darkness deepens and again becomes blackness ;
only the red gleams from a few of the distant fires
break it here and there in swaying rifts. Not a word
is spoken, while we are passing this point, though many
an anxious eye is turned in the direction of the rebel
All doubts as to whether we would get beyond reach
of the enemy without being discovered were settled a
few moments later by sharp firing in our rear. We
were soon overtaken by the party we had seen stand-
ing at the barricade of rails. From this squad we learn
THE GUN-BEARER. 235
that they had been fired upon by the enemy's skirmish
" They '11 chase us up, see 'f they don't," said Nick,
upon learning the fire had been returned.
" So long as they don't know how many there are of
us, we are just as good as a whole division would be,"
" Yer right, Dan ; and it will make ther Johnnies er
little careful, arter we once get a crack at 'em. 'F we
only had er few big guns, 'twould be all ther better."
A few minutes later and another volley was heard
from the same direction.
" They won't get an answer this time ; ther coon ain't
thar," said Nick.
" No, but as you said, just now, they'll follow us up."
Weary and worn we pressed onward, now with sway-
ing step and half closed eyes, now breaking into a
double quick, now slowing down to a rapid walk,
every step bringing us nearer to Franklin, every man
carrying his gun ready for instant action. A short
interval passed, and then, within easy range, from our
left came a light volley of musketry, which did us no
Halting for a moment, we vigorously returned the
fire and then resumed our march. It soon became
apparent, from the method of attack, that the enemy
were not present in large numbers. Possibly it was
only a skirmish line or, perhaps, a small body of cav-
alry. Whatever it was, the force continued to harass
us at intervals.
Just before the day dawned, we saw the glowing
embers of a baggage-wagon that had been destroyed.
We gave this spot a wide berth. A little later and our
eyes penetrated farther into the darkness with which
we had been surrounded. A faint glow appeared in
236 THE GUN-BEARER.
the east. Daylight came. The darkness broke and
dissolved. The mists rose from the earth like ragged
In the morning light I saw the anxious, careworn faces
of the men around me — soldiers bound together by the
feeling of sympathy and comradeship, the natural
accompaniment of a common danger and duty.
Close beside me was Nick — tall, awkward, gaunt, with
a kindly, honest face and big gray eyes, which I found
were curiously turned toward me.
As the sun rose we reached the friendly shelter of
woods. Here we hurried along at a rapid pace. Our
safety now depended on our speed. Tired, hungry and
exhausted as we were, there was no time for halting,
and, if there had been, breakfast was impossible, for
there was nothing to eat.
Fifteen or twenty miles are nothing for strong, well-
fed soldiers, breaking camp in the freshness of the early
morning, but we were in no condition for it. We had
not slept for two nights, and our haversacks were
Many a time I was tempted to drop out of line and
rest. What odds if I were taken prisoner and carried
to Andersonville ? I might as well die there as any-
Hour after hour slipped away. Mile after mile we
covered in this toilsome march, stimulated only to still
greater effort by occasional shots from the enemy. At
last the breastworks thrown up by Schofield's force on
the crest of the hill between us and Franklin came into
A half-hour later we passed through the opening in
the works at the turnpike, where we were welcomed as
from the dead. The greeting was a cordial one, but it
was interrupted by Nick, who quietly said :
" Dan, thar 's our cook in the rear 'f that old cotton-
gin yonder. Come, my boy, 'nd we '11 feed."
A glance to the right refreshed my eyes with
the sight of blazing wood and- steaming kettles.
Thither we went and, through Nick's cleverness, suc-
ceeded in obtaining a bit of bacon, a pot of hot, black
coffee and sugar with which to sweeten it. It was a
feast for a hungry man ; such a meal as I had not en-
joyed in a long time, and it was quickly devoured.
While eating, I asked the cook if he had seen any of
the Twelfth Kentucky, and was informed that a lot of
our men had passed only a short time before and that
they were now asleep in a little hollow only a few steps
away in the rear and on the right of the road.
After I had finished eating, I left Nick at the fire and
started in search of the boys, finding them where the
cook had directed me. Captain Hartees was there and,
only a few feet away, Fred, Jake and Taylor, all with
their accouterments on, sleeping just as they had thrown
themselves, on reaching the spot where they lay. I was
soon beside them and, without my blanket under my
head for a pillow, speedily became oblivious to all sur-
Franklin, Tennessee, the county seat of Williamson,
is on the south bank of the Little Harpeth. This
stream winds nearly around the town, holding it as it
were in the lap of a crescent.
Within the arms of this crescent, that is, across from
one point to the other, is a ridge, known as Carter's
Hill, the crest of which commands a fine view of the
surrounding country. From this ridge, toward the
north, the ground gradually slopes to the river bank,
where the town is located. Franklin, therefore, is
bounded by the river on the north, east and west and
by the ridge on the south.
To the south of this ridge is also a gradual slope
which for little less than a mile on the right and
directly in front was clear of timber. This elevated
ground was occupied by our troops and, as I stood by
the cook's fire and drank my coffee, a few hours before,
I saw that the line selected for defense, and along which
our men were rapidly throwing up earth works, was a
curve extending from river to river.
The center of this intrenchment, part of which de-.
scribed an angle, was at the Columbia Turnpike, where
a space, the whole width of the road, was left open,
and through which the artillery and baggage wagons
had passed on their way to Nashville.
Tl E GUN-BEARER. 239
After sleeping two or three hours, I was suddenly
awakened. Expecting to find that some of my com-
rades had disturbed me, I raised my head ; but a glance
satisfied me they were still sleeping, and there was no
one else near. Closing my eyes, I again tried to sleep,
but the subtle influence had fled, and, in spite of my
tired, worn-out condition, would not return. At last I
arose, buckled on my accouterments and, with rifle in
hand, walked toward the works.
Here I found most of our forces in position and
awaiting the appearance of the enemy. On the left of
the road I noticed a part of our brigade. A little way
in the rear were parked the ammunition wagons.
Crossing the road, a short distance away, a retrench-
ment commanded the opening in the works and its
approach. A few rods south of the cotton gin, a battery
of six field pieces had been stationed. West of this,
and on the other side of the Pike, were Opdycke's men
Just outside the works, beyond the angle, a detail of
men were hurriedly constructing a thorny abatis of
osage orange. East of this, Henderson's men held the
line to the Lewisburg Pike ; then Casement's Second
Brigade to the river.
Passing through the opening, I stood for a few
moments gazing at the landscape before me. The
afternoon was surpassingly lovely, and an Indian-sum-
mer haze, which pervaded the warm atmosphere, had
settled on the distant hills. Nature was peacefully
sinking into her winter sleep, undisturbed by any noise
save the caw of a crow which lazily winged its way
toward the leafless trees on the other side of the river.
" Caw ! Caw ! Caw !"
Like a hungry ghoul, impatient for a feast of human
flesh, this " thing of evil " turned suddenly and sailed
240 THE GUN-BEARER.
in a circle above us. There was something almost
prophetic in the action. Death was at hand. In less
than an hour, perhaps, the air would be thick with
hissing bullets and the earth in front of me made red
"Caw! Caw! Caw!"
Pitiless and mocking came the hoarse response to my
thought. Was it a warning ? The query thrilled me, and
I saw others shiver as we watched this uneasy spirit
winging higher and still higher. Was it possible that
from his dizzy height he saw the moment of battle
drawing near ?
" Caw ! Caw ! Caw !" came the answer.
" What a place for a stand !" thought I. " If Hood
will only dare attack us here !"
In front of me was an unobstructed slope of open
fields, skirted at the base by a belt of woods. Beyond,
and nestling among the hills, a few farm houses were
to be seen.
Less than half a mile in front of our center and
stretching across the Turnpike were stationed two
brigades of Wagner's Division.
Why they were there I could not understand, but
supposed it must be for some good purpose. I noticed
every one in that line was alert and evidently scanning
the woods at the foot of the slope.
In the intrenchments, too, men were anxiously watch-
ing. Now that their work was nearly finished, they
gathered in groups to discuss the probability of an at-
tack. The solitary worker, with pick or shovel here,
and there, stopped occasionally between the motions of
his occupation and viewed the scene.
" Will Hood attack us here or will he march around
us and once more get in our rear ?" was the question of
THE GUN-BEARER. 241
We had not long to wait for an answer to this query,
for, presently, a skirmish line, emerging from the woods,
gave signal that the enemy were approaching.
An awful stillness fell upon the scene ; a quiet I had
experienced, and which every one who has been in
battle knows better than can be described. The pulse-
beat of the line quickened. Men dropped pick and
spade and grasped their rifles. Gunners stood by their
guns, silently awaiting the solid ranks which everybody
knew were but a little distance behind the skirmishers.
I scanned the faces of the veterans near me, and saw
pictured there confidence and determination to settle
their account with Hood.
Suddenly, from a dozen throats, there arose the cry :
" There they come !"
Almost at the same instant, from out of the woods
near the river, on our left, and stretching to a consider-
able distance beyond the Columbia Turnpike, I saw the
dark gray lines and glittering bayonets of the Con-
federate army. In heavily massed column they ad-
vanced, as gayly, it seemed to me, as if they were
entering a parade-ground instead of a battle-field.
Marching toward us for a short distance, they wheeled
into line, halted, and were at once ready for the order,
" Forward !"
Two detachments of artillery thundered out of the
woods, galloped forward, unlimbered, and established
themselves in positions, covering different roads. There
was no counter-marching, no shifting of pieces. The
formation was made with accuracy and dispatch.
Leaving my post of observation in front, I turned,
went inside the works and joined a group from my
brigade, who were also watching the scene.
When the enemy began to move they manifested
even more deliberation than at first ; the lines, which
242 THE GUN-BEARER.
appeared to be six or seven regiments deep, in the
center, assumed better shape and advanced with a pre-
cision and military bearing seldom seen on a holiday
parade. It was one of the most impressive sights I
ever witnessed and occasioned much favorable com-
ment from the veterans near me.
Later, as the enemy increased their speed to a double-
quick, one of the group in front of me said :
"That's what I call a handsome line of battle."
"You 're right, it is!" said another. "And they
mean business, too !"
" The best thing Wagner can do," said a third, " is to
git out er that place, and do it quick, too ! He 'd better
git in here out er the way."
" He 's no good where he is," rejoined the first speaker,
" and we can't use a piece of artillery or fire a musket
while they stand between us and the enemy."
" There 's a terrible mistake somewhere !" added still
It was true, we could not fire without injury to our
men. It was also true and painfully apparent that
some one had seriously blundered in placing that line.
Yet there it stood, two brigades of dazed, undisciplined
men, opposed to nearly forty thousand of the flower of
the Confederate Army.
When the enemy approached within a short distance,
these bridgades opened a rattling fire ; but the enemy,
without pause or, so far as we could see, the loss of a
man, hurried on, firing as they came, their line extend-
ing half a mile beyond either flank of the panic-stricken .
brigades, who now broke and fled — a confused, dis-
organized crowd, flying in terror and streaming directly
up the Turnpike, toward our center, as fast as their
legs coiil d carry them.
" There 's a foot-race for yer !" exclaimed the familiar
THE GUN-BEARER. 243
voice of Jake Bence. " But it 's just what we might
expect. Somehow we never get half a chance at the
Johnnies, but somebody up and spoils it all. What
business 'd that line out there, any way ? The idea !
Hanging on till the last minute, 'nd what right had they
to fire, any how ? Our line 's got to break now to let
'em in. The rebs are close onto 'em, 'nd if they don't
look out they '11 all come in together. There 's rebs
enough to eat us, if they ever get a chance. Come,
Dan, we 'd better go and wake up the boys."
Together we hurried to our company in the rear of
the cotton-gin, roused man after man and set these to
work waking others. I ran to Captain Hartees, who
was lying with his head resting on his overcoat, and
attempted to shake him into wakefulness. He did not
"Captain!" I shouted. "Wake up! The rebs are
By this time the noise of artillery and musketry on
our left gave evidence that the battle had commenced ;
and, as I stooped and again took the sleeping officer by
the shoulder, I could hear the loud, ringing yells of the
enemy added to the roar of the oncoming storm.
"Captain!" I cried again. "Captain! Wake up!
The rebs are here ! The 've attacked us — are coming
close to the works ! Come, come, get up, or it will be
too late !" Saying which, I took hold of the shoulders
of the sleeper and raised him almost to his feet before
When the captain finally became conscious that he
was wanted the fleetest runners of the retreating bri-
gades had reached the ditch in front of the works,
jumped into it, and were coming up on the other side
and through our lines, which had opened to receive
244 THE GUN-BEARER.
From one end of our line of defense to the other,
excepting that portion covering the turnpike, a flame
of fire flashed a moment, fitfully, and the white smoke
of the burned powder hung like a curtain for an instant
between us and the enemy, only to drift away and
reveal the long lines of graycoats rapidly advancing
and pouring into our ranks a fire no less rapid. In
front I saw a wide area, literally crammed with Con-
federates ; their lines, being thicker at this point than
at any other, were mixed with our own men, all run-
The enemy fully appreciated the situation, knew they
were completely covered by our men, and that so long
as this condition of things continued, we could not fire.
They also understood that our line would open to let
in this hapless crowd, and that that break in our center
would be their opportunity.
Toward this point they were running, careless, con-
fident, their muskets at a charge, and their faces beam-
ing with satisfaction, as if they were anticipating a
grand rout to come and were even then enjoying it.
Nearer and nearer, like a drove of brown sheep, crowd-
ing by and trying to run over each other, in their
eagerness to be first through our center, they jump
into the ditch with our men, and with them enter our
In their rear, a perfect sea of heads and glistening
steel, is moving forward with the same desperate
eagerness, forcing those who are in front continually
forward, whether they will or not.
The charge of the enemy was so impetuous, and the
bewilderment of the men, who should have held this
important point, so great, that our line, like a huge
gate opening inward, yielded. The enemy saw it, and
THE GUN-BEARER. 245
with a deafening yell, rushed for the gap, which imme-
diately becomes wider as the One hundredth and a
part of the One hundred and Fourth Ohio left their
post of duty and ran.
Panic stricken, men and officers fled in dismay ; the
wildest confusion prevailed. Every one seemed bent on
getting to the rear at the earliest moment. It looked
as if no human power could check this disastrous
stampede. A moment longer and our whole line, al-
ready in great peril, would have been hopelessly broken
and Hood victorious ; but just as the color-bearer of
the One hundredth Ohio came running by us, Captain
Hartees snatched the flag and, waving it aloft an in-
stant, shouted in a tone heard above the tumult :
" Break for the works !"
With a loud cheer company after company of the
Twelfth Kentucky follow the man whose bravery had
stimulated them so many times in emergencies.
Colonel White, with voice and gesture, urged on the
Sixteenth Kentucky and the Eighth Tennessee, and
rallied the flying Ohio regiments. All together we
struggle for the abandoned positions, while Wagner's
men, with the One Hundred and Seventy-fifth Ohio
and Opdyke's Brigade, filled with the enthusiasm of
their leader, also hurry to our support.
I had never before, in conflict, been so close to the
enemy ; never before had been able to look in men's
faces and note their expression. The countenances of
these men were not unpleasant to look upon. There
was nothing to excite fear — nothing brutal — about them ;
rather an expression of indifference, as I look back at
them now, like men who might, perhaps, have been dis-
possessed of their sensibilities, and were merely execut-
ing an order, without the faintest thought or care of
246 THE GUN-BEARER.
consequences. There were many gray, weather-beaten
faces, telling tales of hardship, of privation and of suf-
As the main body of the two lines met, I heard, from
the opposite side :
" We 've got 'em on the run, boys. The works are
ours ! Hold all you get !"
In response came the cheering voice of Hartees :
"Forward, men ! Drive 'em back ! Clean 'em out !"
I saw Jake, at this instant, jump quickly forward,
knock down a Confederate color-bearer, wrench away
the flag he carried, throw it on the ground, trample it
under foot and leave it there.
Immediately a desperate hand-to-hand fight, with
bayonets and clubbed muskets, ensued, and the stand-
ards of both armies waved within the line of works.
I found myself defending blows that a burly fellow
was aiming at my head. The features of his dust-
blackened and heated face were quivering with fero-
cious joy. His sharp white teeth were laid bare in a
wolfish grin, and I saw blazing, in his small gray eyes,
a determination to kill me or any one else who opposed
He had clubbed his gun and was striking at me with
all the strength he could command. My rifle was
loaded, but so rapidly did this man handle his weapon
that I could do nothing but ward off his blows.
Once, twice, thrice he brought down the butt of his
musket, aiming to strike my head ; but each time I
successfully fenced it off. Again and again, faster and
faster, he followed blow on blow. I seemed to have
been left alone to take care of this man. My comrades
were by my side; so near that I could feel the move-
ments of their bodies against my own, yet each man
THE GUN-BEARER. 247
was defending, with his life, the ground he stood
upon, as I was. Each was held equally close to his
perilous duty by the dogged determination of his
antagonist. I could help no one, others could not help
The man confronting me was larger and stronger
than I, and I felt that I could not stand before him
very long. My defense weakened rapidly, but there set
in now a backward movement of the enemy — the line
in front of me becoming, if possible, more dense than
ever. As his comrades crowded against my antagonist
he wavered, failed to recover from the last blow quick
enough to deliver another. My rifle was at his breast
in an instant. I fired. A flash, a burning flame ; then,
with a look of disappoitment on his face, intensified as
he clutched his rifle with firmer grip, he fell at my
At this moment I discovered beside me Nick Searle,
who, with others of the Sixteenth Kentucky, in their
eagerness to meet the enemy, had separated from their
comrades in that first rush for the works and were now
fighting with us, side by side.
Nick was striving desperately to free his gun from
the control of an assailant who had locked bayonets
They were well matched in strength, Nick having
advantage only by being the more active and fresher
of the two. There could be no doubt as to the result
of this individual encounter, I thought, glancing for
an instant at the combatants.
But another of the enemy jumped to the relief of
his comrade and, with the butt of his musket raised in
the air, was about to decide the content against my
248 THE GUN-BEARER.
Quickly thrusting forward my rifle, I warded off the
blow which descended with crushing force on the
arm of Nick's foe, causing him to lose hold of his
musket and leaving Nick free to act in his own de-
There was no method of action in that encounter ;
all we thought of or cared for or strove to accomplish,
was to check, if possible, the progress of the enemy.
Men discharged their muskets in the faces of other
men ; they ran each other through the body with
bayonets ; they clubbed their guns and brought them
down upon the head of the enemy who stood nearest.
Others used the butts of their guns, as one might use a
battering-ram, and struck their opponents in the
Rifle struck rifle, bayonet locked with bayonet, and
men panted as they wildly struggled with each other
for possession of this central point in the line of our
defense. Back, step by step, the enemy are forced
into the ditch. They fought like madmen to hold
all they had gained ; but, in spite of their undaunted
courage, the gap through which they had expected
to pass " on the run " closed and was now well de-
Among the many prisoners taken and hurried to the
rear, I saw the Confederate general, Gordon, in charge
of Captain Hartees.
It was while leading his division in this charge that
the Confederate general, Cleburn was shot, not more
than thirty paces in front of us. The horse from
which he fell advanced to the top of our works, where
he was shot and dropped with his feet hanging over the
Our line was once more unbroken, and we were
THE GUN-BEARER. 249
thinking - that the worst was over, when the cry was
" There they come again !"
Another line of battle, stronger than the first, had
advanced at a double quick, under cover of the smoke,
and were now upon us.
On they come, shoulder touching shoulder, loading
and firing as they advanced. But their assault was
met with the firmness of a rock, and the living wave
was dashed back. Bruised, torn and bleeding, they
staggered and fell in heaps under our fire, which
was now crossed at a left oblique by the fire from
a part of our brigade, on the other side of the
The discharge of small arms was so incessant that
dense masses of smoke settled upon us, partly obscuring
the field, and veiled the movements of the assaulting
lines, excepting when the sulphurous vapor was lifted
into rifts. Then we saw battle-flags waving, lines
charging and men reeling and falling to earth. Great
swaths of human beings fell, as grass falls before a
scythe ; but the horrible gaps closed again, and tramp-
ing, slipping, stumbling over the fallen bodies of their
dead and wounded comrades, with the powder flame
from our guns almost burning their faces, they
pressed toward the death which they knew awaited
Again and again the assault was made, with similar
results ; and the piles of dead and wounded attested
the heroic determination of the enemy to carry our
works at any cost.
One Confederate color-bearer reached the crest of our
works with his flag, stood with it above his head an
instant ; then, burying its pointed staff deep in the
J50 THE GUN-BEARER.
1 oose earth, and amid a storm of bullets, leaving his
colors flying in our faces, he jumped back among his
comrades, laughing and unharmed.
Hardly had he disappeared when, with a prolonged
yell, the enemy attacked us with such fury that it seemed
as if not only Hood's but Lee's army, also, was behind
those gallant fellows, forcing them on. But they need
no spur. Their standard was planted upon our works
and beckoned to them. Volley upon volley we direct
at the staff of this banner, but it continued to wave,
Captain Hartees forces his way toward this point,
shouting at the same time :
" Cut down that flag ! Down with it !"
" Cut it down ! Cut it down !" echoed a score of
A heavy fire was centered upon it, tearing the banner
into shreds. The staff splintered, bit by bit. Oh, so
slowly ! It bent, it broke, and the emblem of treason
at last dropped to the earth.
Faster the rear ranks loaded, faster the front ranks
fired, until at times our whole front was one continuous
line of blazing musketry. The enemy in our immedi-
ate front could endure it no longer, and during a brief
lull cry out :
" For God's sake, stop firing ! Let us come in ! We
" Stay where you are !" thunders back a voice. "Lie
down ! Keep out of the way !"
We could not let them in. Other lines were still
advancing upon us, and we had no time to spare in
taking prisoners. Worst of all, our ammunition was
Captain Hartees discovered this fact and ordered me
THE GUN-BEARER. 251
to carry the information to General Reilly, and tell
him we must have more ammunition, and at
I left my place in line, went to the rear, found the
general, and delivered the message.
" Tell him," said our brigade commander, " he shall
have it, and all he wants at once," upon which he
turned and rode away.
It appeared to me as I stood alone for a moment,
trying to take in the scene, that the bullets were flying
thicker there, than at the front. Shot and shell were
whistling through the air from all directions ; while
along the whole line of our defense, enveloped in thick
smoke, which was dispersed above in a thin canopy of
bluish vapor, I heard the hoarse shout of contending
armies, and the angry report of musketry as it flashed
and tore along from right and left to center and back
again, lighting up the smoke clouds as the light-
ning's flash illumines the dark cloud on a summer's
Wounded men everywhere ; some, leaning on their
guns for support, were limping away ; some, crawling
to a place of safety ; others, too weak to move further,
were dying where loss of blood had compelled them to
A wounded, riderless horse, frantic with pain, and
wild with the furious tumult, bounded over the
field, seeking to fly from the peril which surrounded
I wonder now that I ever had the courage to return
to my post ; but the idea that my life was in danger
never occurred to me. The scene I witnessed from the
rear impressed me, but it inspired no feeling of fear ;
I had delivered my message, and satisfied myself that
252 THE GUN-BEARER.
things were yet well with us, and returned to my
My nerves were strung to the highest tension, and I
was conscious that my excitement was intense, but the
controlling influence, that which moved me quickly
forward, was the fear that some of my comrades
should miss me, and not understand why I had left
Once more in line, I glanced backward toward the
ammunition-wagons, and there saw a man take a box
of ammunition on his shoulder and start toward us on
the run. He had covered nearly half the distance when
he fell, pierced with the enemy's bullets. Another
man picked up the box, but carried it only a few yards
when he, too, fell. At that moment some one from
brigade headquarters, who had seen the second man
fall, ran to the box, now wet with blood, picked it up
and brought it in.
In a moment the cover was off and the contents of
the box were distributed. Just then came another lull
in the firing when the enemy, who had given up the
fight, and had since been lying close under the hedge
and in the ditch, jumped up, shouting :
" Let us come in now ! We surrender !"
" Come in ! Come in !" we shouted, without waiting
Instantly our works were swarming with the enemy,
who threw down both colors, arms and ammunition,
and hurried to the rear.
Two or three of our boys picked up a few of these"
battle flags, of which there was a large number, when
a shout from some one stopped them.
" Leave these flags for the sutlers !" said the voice.
" Look out for the flags in front !"
THE GUN-BEARER. 253
Only a brief pause in the roar of battle, just long
enough to pass around the ammunition we had re-
ceived and get our prisoners out of the way, when
again " the rebel yell," from another of the successive
lines of assailants, gave warning of a renewal of the
Like men who were breasting a storm of hail, pulling
their hats down over their eyes and inclining their heads
forward to meet the leaden rain, they rush toward the red
tongues of death that, simultaneously with the order,
" Fire !" leaped forth to scorch and wither dozens and
scores and hundreds.
I wonder how men dare rush in the face of death so
calmly, so deliberately.
I fixed my eyes on a tall, sinewy fellow, with brown
beard, a slouched hat, with the rim turned down and a
ragged suit of brown and gray. His hands held his
rifle firmly as he ran over the dead and wounded bodies
of those who have gone before him. He looked not to
see where he stepped ; now upon the chest of some
wounded comrade ; now upon the neck or in the face
of some one nearly dead, who writhed in agony at the
fresh torture inflicted.
On, on he came. Bullets flew faster and yet faster
around him ; his companions fell on either side of him ;
he heeded them not. He stumbled at last, gathered
himself, ran a few paces, stumbled again, staggered,
dropped his gun and fell. Those behind were now
running over his body as he ran over others but an
Meanwhile, the sun had set. It was becoming dark,
but I could yet see across the Turnpike, where the
battle was raging still no less fiercely than with us.
There, also, the enemy are trying to storm the works.
254 THE GUN-BEARER.
But our line stood firm as the cliffs of the sea. An
officer, leading the charge, rode to the ditch, leaped it
and mounted the works, where the horse fell, riddled
with bullets, and the rider tumbled headlong to the
A howl of rage rose from the infuriated host which
now sprang forward for revenge. The entire line was
stimulated to desperation. Nearer and nearer they
come. Another battle flag rose above the works within
a feet few feet of me. The experience with that other
flag was enough for one day, and I resolved that this
banner should not wave over us if I could help it.
Impulsively I dropped my rifle, jumped toward the
flag, seized it by the staff with both hands and exerted
all my energy to wrench it from the hands of the man
who carried it. A desperate struggle for the posses-
sion of the flag ensued. First victory seemed to be
on one side, then on the other. But neither would
Backward and forward, now brought nearly to my
knees, now in danger of being thrown to the earth by
the almost superhuman strength of my antagonist, we
struggled for a moment on the works, the flag, just
above our heads, swaying in all directions with the
movements of our bodies, the thick smoke of the
atmosphere around us, almost suffocating in its density,
vibrating with the sounds of exploding rifles, clash-
ing bayonets and the whistle and zip of swiftly flying
Suddenly I felt a burning sensation, as if a red hot
iron had been laid on my head, and my eyes were
quickly blinded with hot blood running over my face.
Conscious that whatever I did must be done quickly, I
summoned all the power that in me lay for a final
"I SEIZED THE FLAG WITH BOTH HANDS."— See Page 254.
effort. The staff yielded, and, amid wild shouts of tri-
umph, though from which side I could not tell, I fall
backward. Some one caught me as I fell, and hurried
me to the rear.
I grew dizzy. My strength was fast leaving me, and
it was with difficulty I kept my feet as we ran. The
noise of battle increased. There was a roaring sound
in my ears ; a sharp, stinging pain in my right arm ; a
bursting sensation ; then — blankness.
It was night when I returned to consciousness, and I
found myself in bed, gazing at a small circle of light on
the ceiling overhead. Directly beneath was a heavily-
shaded lamp, which cast a luminous disk upon a table.
Other parts of the room were in somber gloom.
In a low chair near the table, partly in light and
partly in shadow, sat a woman reading. I could not see
the woman's face nor tell if she was black or white.
An air of wholesome comfort and peace and quiet
pervaded the place, and I wondered where it was ; why
I was lying in bed with my head so tightly bandaged ;
why my arms and limbs were so numb and void of
For some time my brain refused to act and I lay
dazed, bewildered, utterly unable to recall the past.
By degrees, however, it slowly came to me, and the
picture of a powder-blackened face and a man carrying
a bullet-rent battle flag presented itself. Then the con-
flict in which I was wounded flashed before me.
But this house. Why was I here ? This was not a.
hospital. It must be far removed from the results of
yesterday's battle ; for, so far as I could see, there were
no other wounded men near me.
THE GUN-BEARER. 257
I tried in various ways to account for my surround-
ings, but reached no satisfactory conclusion. Then my
mind reverted to the battle ; whether or not we were
victorious ; if I succeeded in taking that flag. I had
hold of the staff and there was a confused recollection
that I did not let go of it. Then came that terrible,
burning pain in my head.
" Ah, if that had not come so soon, had only kept
away a moment longer, the flag would have been mine,
and I should have remembered all about it. Perhaps
this woman can tell me something about it."
I tried to attract her attention and failed. She did
not hear me ; at least she did not move. My voice
was weak and strange. I hardly recognized it. But I
tried again ; this time with what I considered a greater
" Who got the flag ?" I asked.
Still no response.
My voice was thick and hoarse, but she surely must
have heard me. Why don't the woman answer me ?
I lay and looked and waited and wondered what it
all meant ; where Fred was, and if it was he who
helped me to the rear when I was wounded.
Now I think of it, I don't remember seeing him
during the fight ; but neither do I remember seeing
any dne else, except Bence and Hartees and Nick too,
after the fight commenced. I wonder if they got out
of the battle all right. Fred was with me when
Hartees shouted for us to follow him, and we both
started for the works together.
Hartees what became of him ? He was a brave
man, none braver ; always at the front ; never shirking.
He and I were the only two in the regiment who were
not Kentuckians. Where did he come from ? Nobody
258 THE GUN-BEARER.
ever seemed to know. Of course I had seen him at
the Way town Arms 'on the night we received the
news that Fort Sumter had been fired upon, but he was
a stranger, even there, as will be remembered.
Musing thus, I wearily watched the leaves of the
book as the reader turned them one by one. I wished
she would stop reading and look at me that I might
attract her attention. But I was in darkness, and even
if I should beckon she could not see me. While trying
to arrange some plan by which I might call her, I fell
When I again awoke the sun was shining into the
room, through partially closed shutters, and I saw a
young woman sitting by an open window looking at
The face of this woman was familiar to me. I had
seen it before. It is wonderfully like Mary's face. But
how can that be possible. How came she here ?
Pshaw ! I must be dreaming. And yet, I ought to
know that face.
Resolved to prove at once if it were she, or at least
attract attention before she turned her eyes from me, I
" Mary !'*
" What !" rising suddenly. " Do you really know me,
"Yes, Mary, why shouldn't I know you ?"
"Thank God!" she fervently exclaimed, tears stream-
ing down her face as she came rapidly to my bedside,
bent over and kissed me.
Surely this is no dream, thought I, closing my eyes,
and yet I cannot understand the reality of my situation.
Yesterday in battle, in middle Tennessee; to-day at
home in Northern Kentucky.
THE GUN-BEARER. 259
Distance is not so easily overcome as that, and if it
were, how was it managed that I had been so speedily-
taken care of while others, in a worse condition, are
left to suffer on that terrible battlefield ?
I hardly dare speak lest the spell should break and I
find, after all, it was only a dream. What if it should be
so ? I shuddered at the thought and opened my eyes
A look from Mary inspired me with the confidence to
" Mary," said I, hesitatingly, " Mary, tell me, is this a
" Oh, Dan, it is all real ; but you must not dare
talk. You are so weak. Let me — "
Here she turned to leave the room.
" Mary !" I cried, with all the strength at my com-
mand, determined not to let her pass out of sight ;
" Mary, don't leave me ! Don't !"
" I won't, Dan, I won't. But your mother — "
Just then the door opened softly, and my mother
entered the room. I looked into the dear, tired face,
whose lips were quivering with suppressed emotion as
she came toward me, and whatever else I tried to say,
my voice failed to utter but the one word :
" Mother !"
" My dear child," she said, kneeling by my bed
and putting her face lovingly against mine, " God is
indeed good to give me back my boy. He will let you
live now and get strong again."
" Yes, mother, I shall soon be well."
" It will take time, my son. But you are at home
now, and in good hands. Please God, we will bring you
out of this all right. But you will have to be per-
fectly quiet for some time yet. A dangerous operation
has been performed on your head. The result, so far,
260 THE GUN-BEARER.
is successful. But the least excitement may undo all
that the doctors have done. So you will be patient,
my boy, and wait until you are stronger, before we can
talk to you or you can ask questions. Don't think of
the past. Sleep. Rest. Watch me or Mary, and
remember mother is with you."
"I'll try and obey orders," I answered, trying to
" That 's right, my son. You shall know all we can
tell you in good time. Mary or I will be with you
night and day. You shall not want for anything, so
don't worry. The doctors will be here to-night. Until
then you must not talk any more. Let me fix your
pillow a little. There ! You feel easier now, don't
" Yes, mother."
" Sleep now, if you can. The more you sleep the
faster you will gain strength."
With this comforting thought my mother kissed me
and quietly left the room. I watched her until the
door closed, assured myself that Mary was still with
me, then shut my eyes and slept.
When I awoke the doctors — three of them — were
present. They felt my pulse, ascertained the tempera-
ture of my body, examined the bandages on my head,
asked me if I knew where I was, what regiment I
belonged to, and a number of questions which, at the
time, seemed quite silly to me. They were all answered
promptly, however, and without confusion.
" Most encouraging," said a gray-haired doctor, one of
the trio, when the other two had finished with their
catechising. " Young man," he said, addressing me,
" you may thank God that you have remarkable recu-
- THE GUN-BEARER. 261
During the conference which followed there was
some talk of leaving opiates for me to take, but the
gray-haired doctor objected, saying :
" The young man needs neither opiates nor tonics.
We have only to look after these bandages, and with
careful nursing" — here he glanced at Mary — "nature
will do the rest."
After giving full instructions regarding my diet and
forbidding me to talk, the doctors departed.
A week of studied silence followed ; days of sleeping
and waiting and watching. In this time I rapidly
gained in strength. The sensation of numbness in
both lower limbs was gradually leaving them. My left
hand and arm I could move a little, but not enough so
that I could feed myself. My right side, however,
seemed to have no sense of feeling whatever.
The doctors came every evening, noted* the progress
I had made and offered me words of encouragement.
At last they informed us that I was strong enough to
be talked to or that some one might read to me ; but
only for a little while at a time ; not more than half an
hour each day.
This was glorious liberty, and my first investment of
it was with my mother. The next morning, after
breakfast, she seated herself near the bed and said :
" Well, my son, now that we can talk to you, I sup-
pose you want to know all about yourself and how you
happen to be here !"
" Yes, mother !"
She began :
"Shortly after the Battle of Franklin I received a
letter from Fred, at Nashville. He told me you
had been wounded and needed more care than
you could possibly get from army surgeons and
262 THE GUN-BEARER.
nurses. The next morning, after receiving that
letter, I was on my way to Nashville, where I found
you in a temporary hospital. You were unconscious
and, the doctor told me, had been so since the battle.
Your condition, he said, was produced by two pieces
of the fractured skull pressing upon the brain. The
remedy was an extremely difficult operation which he
intended to perform when you were strong enough.
The shock your nervous system had received was great,
and it would yet be weeks before he could think of
doing anything more for you. Your arm was healing."
" My arm, mother ?"
" Yes, my dear boy. The bone of your right arm
was so shattered that amputation above the elbow was
" I didn't know that," I said. This accounted for the
numbness in*my right side. I had no arm and could
not feel. "Well," I said, trying to look cheerful, "my
left arm remains and my lower limbs," moving them.
" Yes, they are yet sound."
" Better still, my son, the operation of ten days ago
was successful, and your senses have been restored. As
soon as the doctor at Nashville thought I could safely
do so I had you brought home, where you have been
ever since. Shortly after reaching home a fever set in
and we almost despaired of your life ; but careful nurs-
ing brought you safely through."
" You and Mary nursed me through it all ?"
" Yes, my boy. Either she or I have been with you
night and day."
" You are both very tired."
" We were both very anxious until after the operation
ten days ago. Since then the improvement in your
condition has been so marked that we have rested
THE GUN-BEARER. 263
much, to say nothing of the mental relief we have
enjoyed. But I must finish my story."
" What about the doctors here, mother ? Who were
" Several doctors were consulted as to performing the
operation necessary to relieve that pressure on your
brain, and, as no one here dared undertake it, a special-
ist — the old gentleman — was sent for from Cincinnati.
He came, examined your head and appointed a day
when he would perform the operation. He said the
result all depended on the curative resources of nature.
He could only give you the benefit of his art. Nature
must provide for the rest."
" Did he say anything about the wounds ?"
" There were two separate wounds, he said, at right
angles with each other, and one very much deeper than
the other. They were in a healthy condition, however,
and that was in your favor. That was all he would say,
except that it was a remarkable case. On the appointed
day the doctors came, the specialist bringing two friends
with him from Cincinnati. The operation was per-
formed, and Doctor Cutler, who lives in town, said the
old gentleman exhibited wonderful skill. I was not
allowed in the room. They thought it better not.
After the operation you went to sleep, and slept
soundly for the rest of that day and night. The next
morning you saw Mary sitting by the window, and
spoke to her."
" Who was it seated at the table, reading, the night
before ?" I asked.
" It was I. Did Mary tell you some one was
" No, mother. I saw you and tried to call you, but
failed. I watched you turn the leaves of that book
264 THE GUN-BEARER.
for a long time ; wondered where I was and tried to
make it all out, but finally went to sleep."
" The doctor thought you might wake up in the night,
and he was right. But he warned us not to talk to you ;
that it would be better for you to sleep. I did not hear
you, however. There, I must not talk any more. Mary
will tell you all about the battle to-morrow. You have
heard enough for to-day."
On the following morning, after disposing of the
scanty allowance — one poached egg, two small slices of
buttered toast and a glass of warm milk, which con-
stituted my breakfast — I asked Mary to tell me all
about the battle.
" Do you feel better this morning ?" she asked.
" Much better," I replied. " Mary, yesterday morn-
ing mother told me that you and she have nursed
me ever since I was brought home."
" It is true," replied Mary. " But I was glad to do it.
Don't say anything about it. The danger is now passed,
thank God, and you will soon be up and about."
" You have been very good to me and I must at least
say I am grateful for what you have done," I persisted.
" Then have the goodness not to refer to it again,
please. Is there not something I can do for you !"
" Yes ; tell me about the battle, please, and how it
went. I am anxious to know."
" You must let me tell you in my own way, then, as
things occur to me. I can only tell you what Fred has
told me and what I have read in the daily papers."
" Fred got out of it all right, then ?" I asked.
" Yes, but you must not anticipate nor interrupt nor
question me. Remember, sir," and her face assumed
an expression of droll importance, " I am to do all the
THE GUN-BEARER. 265
" All right, Mary, I will remember."
" In the first place, then, Hood was defeated, losing
something over six thousand men. Schofield lost two
thousand men. One thousand of these belonged to
Wagner's two brigades, who were in front of your works
before the battle commenced. The fight was about
over by seven o'clock.; though there were occasional
volleys from the enemy until ten o'clock. After that
time, there being no further demonstration, Schofield
sent out a skirmish line, and not finding the enemy,
they returned, when our whole force quietly left the
works and marched to Nashville. The flag you risked
your life for — "
"Well?" I asked quickly, my pulses throbbing with
" Is in this drawer."
" What ?" I exclaimed, as the thought of this trophy
being so near, thrilled me. . " Then 1 did capture it
after all ?"'
" Yes, but calm yourself, Dan. Be perfectly calm or
I shall stop talking. It will not do to excite yourself.
I ought not to have spoken of this."
" Show it to me Mary. Show it to me. See, I am
With a look of distrust, Mary opened a drawer in the
table standing near the head of my bed, took out and
unfolded a tattered, blood-stained, cross-barred flag,
the general appearance of which had been burned so
vividly into my memory.
Hold it up, Mary. Hold it up ! Let me look at it
" Oh, Dan, how could you ?" she said, holding the
flag up as high as she could reach. " How could you
dare so much for only a flag ?"
266 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Only a flag, Mary ; only a flag. Ah, if you had
seen the hosts of brave men following that flag,
through smoke and blood, to the jaws of death. If you
had thrilled with the cheers of encouragement from
comrades who were watching you ; if you could
know — "
" Hush, sir ! Hush ! Remember your promise ; you
are not to talk. It won't do any good. I have tried,
but cannot understand it, and I don't believe any
woman or even a man who has not been in battle can
understand anything of the inspiration in a flag, that
leads men to death. It was a daring thing to do.
They say you jumped onto the works wrenched the
flag from the hands of its bearer and that too after you
had been wounded. It was a brave act, and as you were
between two fires, it is a miracle you were not killed.
After you had possession of the flag you fell back-
ward. A man by the name of Searle caught you — "
" What, Nick ?" I asked.
" Yes, I think that is his name."
" Where is he now ?"
" Remember your promise, and please not interrupt.
Let me finish the story in my own way. I mean to
be arbitrary in this matter."
" I will be silent," I passively responded. " Go on !"
" Well, then, you were led to the rear as rapidly as
possible, dragging the captured banner after you. Be-
fore reaching a place of safety your arm was shattered
by a bullet ; then you dropped the flag. At the same
time you received another wound in your head and
dropped as if dead. Searle dragged you to the ambu-
lances, where you were examined by the doctor, who
found you were living and, after dressing your wounds
temporarily, sent you to Nashville. Fred and others
saw you when you captured the flag and have many
times told the story. Searle, on his return to the
front, picked up the flag-, tore it from the staff and put
it in his pocket. He came to see you when the war
"What!" I exclaimed in astonishment at this new
revelation. "The war — the war — closed, did you
" Yes, Dan. Lee surrendered on the 9th of April."
" And I—?"
" Have been battling for life and reason for nearly
six months. It is now the 20th of May."
" How is my boy to-day ?" said mother, on entering
my room one morning, a few days after the events nar-
rated in the last chapter.
" Better, thank you," I replied. " I slept well last
night, and am now equal to a good breakfast, and feel
as if I might be up and dressed by and by."
Mother smiled good-naturedly, and said :
" There *s nothing to be gained by hurrying. Better
wait a few days longer. Mary is preparing breakfast,
and, while you are waiting, I have a little story to tell
which, I am sure, will surprise you, and I know will do
you no harm."
" What is it, mother ?" I asked, wondering how it was
possible to bring forward anything more surprising
than had been revealed to me during the days just
" Well, I will tell you. About four weeks since I
received from a lawyer in Memphis, Tennessee, a letter,
which had been forwarded to me from Waytown. The
letter was addressed to your father, and stated that
father's brother — "
THE GUN-BEARER. 269
I did not know father had a brother ?" I interrupted.
" He did, though. But he rarely ever mentioned him.
His name was Daniel Nichols. He was a rich planter,
owned a large number of slaves, and was so thoroughly
aristocratic in his notions that father would have
nothing to do with him."
" More 's the pity," I remarked. " His brother might
have been a great help when father was sick and in
" Yes, he might, and no doubt would, if he had
known. But your father was as proud, though not as
successful, as his brother, and would not have asked for
help to keep us out of the poor-house."
" But the lawyer's letter. What about it ?" I asked, a
" I was about to tell you. It was a notice, in effect,
that Daniel Nichols had died and that his property, by
reason of the death of his son, had been willed to
your father, and that the lawyers awaited further
instructions and would be pleased to attend to all
matters of transfer, record, et cetera."
" What is the property, mother ?"
"A schedule of it accompanied the letter, and it
amounts to almost one hundred and fifty thousand
" What ?" I gasped. " One hundred and — Oh, pshaw !
It cannot be. It is only a mistake. One hundred and
fifty thous — Are you sure this is true ?"
"Quite true, Daniel, and no mistake."
"And I am — mother, am 1 dreaming? Say that
again, please," said I, reaching out and taking her hand
in my own.
" It is all true, Daniel. Your uncle died and left all
his property — that is, all the war had left him — to your
270 THE GUN-BEARER.
father. As your father is dead the property passes,
by terms of the will, to you. It is valued at a hun-
dred and fifty thousand dollars in round numbers, and
consists of a bank account of some fifty thousand,
United States bonds, singularly enough, to the extent
of fifty thousand more, and the balance represents the
assessed valuation of the plantation, all of which have
been duly transferred to you, his nephew and only
living blood relation."
" And it is then really a fact that I am a — "
"A rich man, in your own right, Daniel."
I lay back upon my pillow, closed my eyes and tried
to take in the situation. My father's brother ! An
uncle of whom I had never heard, in western Tennes-
see ! Strangely enough, at that moment I heard a
familiar tune being whistled by a passing boy on the
street, and there came to my mind the old chant of
" Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow."
Quickly following the resurrection of this old tune, there
passed in mental review the stalwart form of the cap-
tain's cook, and his effort, the first time we met, to have
me recognize him as the son of his old master. Lige
was from Tennessee, they said. Yes, it must be so.
No doubt I resembled that cousin, and Lige was moved
to recognition by it. I wondered if I should ever see
Lige again. If I should happen down there and wel-
come him back to the old plantation, where, no doubt,
he was born and had passed all his young life — Mary's
appearance at this instant put an end to my dream-
ing, and I asked if Mary knew of my good for-
" Yes, Daniel, Mary knows the whole story."
THE GUN-BEARER. 271
" It 's about my uncle in Tennessee," I replied
in answer to a questioning look from Mary's
" I am glad for you," she said, simply, " but now we
have something of vastly more importance to con-
sider. Here are dainties fit for a king, and you have
only to eat sir and be well."
What an appetizing breakfast that was, with Mary
and mother to supply the needs of my missing hand ;
and what a delightful experience to watch these dear
ones as they lovingly vied with each other in their
efforts to please me.
After the meal was finished and mother had taken
away the tray, Mary said :
" I wonder if you are now in a condition to bear
another surprise ?"
" What, another ? Will wonders never cease ?"
" I hope, Dan, we may never again have anything
happen to us less pleasing than that which I am about
to tell you of. But, perhaps, after all, I had better wait
a day or two longer. You ought not to have too much
to carry in your mind just yet."
" There you go, teasing again. You know I am
strong enough now to bear almost anything. Besides,
I have already been so thoroughly surprised at every-
thing that has transpired that I do not see how it can be
possible to startle me further ; particularly if what you
tell me is pleasing."
" Oh, it is decidedly pleasant, or you may be sure I
would not tell you," Mary replied. " Perhaps, after all,
I may as well tell you."
" Do, I implore you," said I, coaxingly.
Mary looked at me quietly for an instant and then
272 THE GUN-BEARER.
" Do you happen to have the least bit of curiosity to
know whatever became of your captain ?"
" Do I want to know where Captain Hartees is ?
Most emphatically, yes !"
" Ah, yes, Hartees ! Yes, that 's the name. I could
not recall it."
" But what about him ? Do you know where he
" I can make a shrewd guess," as the Yankees say.
"Come, Mary, tell me what you have to tell, and
don't tease me any longer ? Was he wounded at
"No, he was not wounded!" she replied, smiling at
" I 'm glad of that," I said, taking hold of her hand
and looking into her love-lit eyes.
" Well, we had a letter direct from Waytown one
day last week, and — "
" Tell me about that some other time, Mary ; but,
just now, tell me where Captain Hartees is — or I '11
cut you off without a shilling !"
" You are getting positively dangerous, and if you
don't look out you shall have no dinner !"
" All right, Mary, have your own way ; take your own
time ; I 'm sure to know it later."
" You surely won't if you persist in interrupting me !
This letter was dated at Waytown and was signed by
"Well, well, that is, indeed, a surprise. What is he
doing there, pray ?"
" That you will learn later, if you please."
" I should like to see him."
" It will be your own fault if you do not, as soon as
you are able to travel !"
THE GUN-BEARER. 273
" How SO ?"
" Because he has settled there. He has married Edith
Miller, whom I suppose you have heard of."
" Married Edith Miller ?"
" Yes, sir ; and, what is more, he is very anxious to
have you and your mother, when you recover, come
back to Waytown and live there."
" We never could do that, Mary, and see our old home
occupied by strangers."
" But couldn't you buy it back ?"
" Yes ; but mother would feel — "
"Well, it does not happen to be necessary. You
interrupt me so that I don't make any progress at
" I promise I will not speak again," said I.
" Listen, then. This letter was filled with kindest
wishes for your speedy restoration to health, and
expressed the hope that you would soon be able to come
back to your old home and live near your friends. With
this letter came a deed of transfer from Edith, turning
over to your mother all the property which, by fore-
closure, passed from the hands of your father into the
possession of Edith's father. What do you think of
that, sir ?" Mary concluded, with a smile.
" I do not know what to think of it, my dear, except
that God has been very good to us and that we have
very much to be thankful for."
Careful nursing hastened my recovery, and in six
months from the date of the surgical operation which
restored me to consciousness I stood with Mary at the
altar, from which we went forth into the world as hus-
band and wife.
In good time Mary and I and mother returned to
274 THE GUN-BEARER.
Waytown, where a series of pleasant surprises awaited
us. As the train rolled into the station I caught sight
of Captain Hartees with his wife Edith. Near by
I also saw Dick Wentworth, the old station agent, and
Billy Green. There, too, were big Joe Bentley and
little Tommy Atkins, with a host of other old-time,
I also noticed that the station itself was decorated
with bunting and flags.
As we stepped from the cars to the platform a salute
was being fired in a neighboring field, and we were at
once surrounded by loving friends, who gave us a royal
What it all meant, what mother or Mary or I had
done to entitle us to such a reception, or why the air
was at this moment vibrating with patriotic music
from the village band, I confess was beyond me to
Carriages awaited us, in which, preceded by the band
and followed by a crowd of villagers, we rode to the
Waytown Arms, also gayly decked with flags and
At the tavern door we were received by the select
men of the town, by whom we were conducted to the
parlors, where a public reception was held. Here,
every one seemed anxious to take me by the hand and
offer me a word of congratulation — though it appeared,
considering the fact that I had been only a humble
private in the army, and was now only a citizen return-
ing to the home of his boyhood, that my friends were
making a greater demonstration over the event than
my record or position would seem to warrant.
Mary, mother and I stood in one corner of the big
double parlors, with Captain Hartees, his wife, the
THE GUN-BEARER. 275
selectmen close by, and the villagers with extended
hands and words of welcome passing before us.
At last the handshaking was finished, and the
people — all who could be accommodated in the parlors
— stood waiting, expectantly, as if there was something
yet to be accomplished or said of which they desired to
be listeners and observers.
To me it was an instant of awkward pause, for I
could not anticipate what was coming ; but it was only
for an instant, when Bert Smith, chairman of the
selectmen, armed with an official-looking document,
stepped in front of, and, in his most impressive manner,
" My brother, no doubt you have been surprised at
the reception which has greeted your arrival home,
and, perhaps, you have wondered not a little what it
was all about. I do not know that I can offer a better
explanation than to say that Waytown is happy this
day to do honor to one of its heroes. At a meeting
held in Town Hall, some months since, celebrating the
close of war and the return of our brave sons, many
of them scarred and maimed from Southern battle-
fields, our beloved citizen, Captain Hartees, had some-
thing to offer in eulogy of what Waytown had done
during the war, and there described the bravery ex-
hibited at the Battle of Franklin by the son whom it is
our delight to honor to-day. Words of mine cannot
fitly describe the period of anxious waiting for the
weekly reports that came to us during the weary
months of your unconsciousness, nor can I express
the joy we felt on learning the result of the surgical
skill which restored your reason. We rejoiced that the
lost was found, that the dead had been made alive
again, and it now becomes my pleasure to hand you a
276 THE GUN-BEARER.
medal of honor, presented by an act of Congress for
gallantry and personal valor to Daniel Nichols, private
Company D, Twelfth Kentucky Volunteers, at the
Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864. Wear
it, as you alone can wear it, ever remembering, my
brother, that while the United States may reward with
medals the devotion and bravery of its loyal sons,
Waytown will cherish in its heart of hearts a love
for its heroes which can never grow dim and can never
As I took the medal in my hand, cheer upon cheer
went up from the assembled villagers, and I, with a
heart too full for utterance, could only feebly express
in words the gratitude I felt for the honors bestowed
A banquet, such as the Waytown Arms had never
before found occasion to spread was then served, and
thus closed the experiences of an eventful day.
Years afterward, I attended a reunion of the Twelfth
Kentucky at Louisville, and there met my cousin Fred,
Nick Searle and Jake Bence. Black Lige also put in
an appearance and was immediately taken charge of
by Captain Hartees who succeeded in persuading his
faithful servant of the past to return with him to
Many and cordial were the greetings exchanged at
that reunion ; and when, at its close, the comrades sepa-
rated to go their different ways, as if in answer to the
question I asked myself, " how many of us shall ever
meet again," Black Lige sang softly,
" Nebber min' de wedder so de win' don' blow,
Don' yer bodder 'bout yer trouble till it comes." ,
An American Society Novel.
GIRLS OF A FEATHER.
MRS. AMELIA E. BARR,
Author of "The Beads of Tasmer," "The Mate of the 'Easter
Bell,'" "Friend Olivia," "The Household of
McNeil," "A Sister to Esau," etc.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY MEREDITH NUGENT.
12mo. 366 pagres. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.25.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
Nothing could be more timely, nothing could be more charm-
ing, than this exquisite book. A society novel by Mrs. Barr will
excite widespread interest and curiosity. " Girls of a Feather "
has the freshness of a May morning in its atmosphere and the
form and color of June in its beautiful pictures of womanhood. It
is a delightful successor to " The Bow of Orange Ribbon," and
readers will find in it a lightness of touch and maturity of power
which show the progress made by the author in the highest quali-
ties of literary form. Her new work is distinctly an advance upon
anything which she has ever done before, and will rank with the
best literature of the period. Large, new type is used, and the
appearance of the book is very attractive.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William and Spruce Streets, New York.
An Entertaining Book.
A PRIESTESS OF COMEDY.
NATALY VON ESCHSTRUTH.
Translated from the German by Elise L. Lathrop.
ILLUSTRATED BY WARREN B. DAVIS.
12mo. 312 Pages. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.26.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
This splendid novel first appeared in this country in the original
German in the New York Staats-Zeitung. The publication in
English is by arrangement with the Staats-Zeitujig. It is a novel
of unusual excellence, conforming to the best models of literary
art, full of tragic interest, lightened by strokes of pure comedy,
and abounding in admirable sketches of modern society. No re-
cent novel has appeared in Germany which has attracted more
interest and favorable comment from the best judges. The title
is thoroughly descriptive of the book. The heroine is an original
and interesting character. The author is one of the most popular
German novelists. The story is beautifully illustrated by Mr.
Warren B. Davis, and it is issued in cloth and paper covers, uni-
form with "Miss Mischief," by Heimburg.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William anp Spruce Streets, New Yori^.
A New Novel by E. Werner.
A Lover From Across the Sea.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY
MARY J. SAFFORD.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY VICTOR PERARD AND S. M. EATON.
12mo. 300 Pagres. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.00.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
E. Werner is the author of more popular novels than any
other German writer. She has set the key for a good many of
her sisters, who have made the German domestic love-story one
of the most agreeable and familiar to American readers. These
stories are always pure, interesting and popular. "A Lover
from Across the Sea" is a fresh story, never before translated,
and better adapted for republication here than any German novel
which we can recall. It is one of the author's shorter novels, and
the volume is enlarged by the addition of another new story by
E. Werner, entitled " In the Hands of the Enemy," of the same
general character and equally interesting. The illustrations of
these stories add very much to the value and beauty of the book.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cqr. William and Spruce Streets, New Yorjc,
A Charming Novel.
HEARTS AND CORONETS;
WHO'S THE NOBLE?
JANE G. FULLER.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR LUMLET.
12mo. 347 Pages. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.00.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
"Hearts and Coronets" is a novel in which rank and wealth
are contrasted with the plainer elements of social life, and are
shown to be no bar to truth, purity and affection. The plot is
extremely good, and appeals strongly to every mother who has
ever looked upon a lovely child in the cradle and considered the
possibility of its being suddenly snatched away and its fate re-
maining for years a sealed book. There are possibilities in life
more strange and surprising than any of the inventions of the
novelist, and this story, like many others which strike the reader
as improbable, is founded on fact. It is a deeply interesting nar-
rative, with many delightful pictures of domestic life and woman's
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William and Spruce Streets, New York.
A New Translation from Balzac.
(L' Envers de 1' Histoire Contemporaine.)
FROM THE FRENCH OF
HONORE DE BALZAC.
FRANCIS H. SHEPPARD, U. S. N.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. A. CARTER.
12mo. 300 Pages. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.00.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
This is an admirable translation of one of the most refined and
spiritual books in any language. It deals with love, but that great
passion is embodied in the souls of men and women who suffered
the great trials and afflictions which overtook the victims of the
first French Revolution. The principal characters belong to the
old aristocracy of France, who escaped only with their lives, to
enact the role of ministers of charity in the very place where had
stood the guillotine, and to the people who had clamored for their
blood. This novel should be read in connection with " The
Country Doctor," as it is written on the same general lines, al-
though it reaches a greater moral altitude, and portrays more in-
tense and tragic circumstances. No one can possibly understand
Balzac without reading this story.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William and Spruce Streets, New Yorjc.
Mrs. Southworth's Best Novels,
ONLY A GIRL'S HEART,
MRS. E. D- E. N. SOUTHWORTH.
THE REJECTED BRIDE,
Being "Only a Girl's Heart," Second Series.
Being " Only a Girl's Heart," Third Series.
MRS. E. D. E. N. SOUTHWORTH,
ALL THREE ILLUSTRATED BY HUGH M. EATON.
12mo. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.00 each. Paper
Cover, 50 Cents.
The three novels above named are all connected by a thread
of story and deal with the same characters. The series reads
continuously and is essentially one novel, although each book
forms more or less a distinct narrative. The interest of the first
novel is carried forward with increasing power until the close of
the third. Few authors, living or dead, have swayed so wide an
influence or held readers with a more sovereign power than this
delightful novelist. Many readers are gratified to meet their old
acquaintances in the successive books of a favorite author. F.
Marion Crawford owes a great deal of his popularity to the
Roman family of the Saracinesca, whose fortunes in succeeding
generations are told in his novels. So this series by Mrs. South-
worth will furnish a whole winter's reading to her admirers, and
all about the same people. The illustrations of these novels add
very much to their beauty and interest.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William and Spruce Streets, New York.
A New Novel by the Author of "A Priestess
NATALY VON ESCHSTRUTH,
Author of" A Priestess of Comedy," " A Princess of the Stage,"
WITS ILL USTKA TIONS BY JAMES FAQ AN.
12mo. 367 Pages. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.25.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
Nataly von Eschstruth's novels are full of romantic sentiment
that takes one completely out of the ordinary atmosphere and
situations of common life. There are a swing to her style, a con-
tagious enthusiasm and extravagance in her descriptions and a
freshness in the emotions and passions of her characters, which
command the attention, excite the feelings and absorb the in-
terest of every reader. All who have read the "Priestess of
Comedy" will appreciate the truth of what we say. "Countess
Dynar " is a book of most unusual beauty. The illustrations are
admirably illustrative of the scenes and characters.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William and Spruce Streets, New York.
An Interesting Novel.
PAUL H. GERRARD.
ILLUSTRATED BY WARREN B. DA7Z&
12mo. 314 Pages. Handsomely Bound in Cloth. Price, $1.00.
Paper Cover, 50 Cents.
" A Sleep-Walker " is a novel of incident. As the title indicates,
complications arise from the doings of a fair somnambulist. In
the opening a mysterious woman is discovered in the act of throw-
ing a child into a reservoir. The fate of the child and the iden-
tity of the woman are matters upon which the plot of the story
turns. Much is involved, and a large number of persons inter-
ested, and a series of events transpire, all of which go to form a
dramatic story ot most sensational interest. The story is pub-
lished simultaneously in England and this country and is well
calculated to please readers in both countries.
For sale by all booksellers and newsdealers, or sent, postpaid,
on receipt of price, by the publishers,
ROBERT BONNER'S SONS,
Cor. William and Spruce Streets, New York.
THE LIBRARY OF THE